File photo Photograph:( AFP )
Despite the worsening infections, Suga stressed his commitment to holding the Olympic games safely and securely
Just ahead of the Olympic games this year, Japan has been struggling to control the infections. On Friday, the country further expanded a coronavirus state of emergency from the previous six areas to nine.
The three new additions are Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, and Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan. This has come as the Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga repeated his determination to hold the Olympics in just over two months.
The three additional areas will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures already under the emergency coronavirus restrictions till May 31, Suga announced at a government taskforce meeting on Friday. Bars, karaoke parlours and most entertainment facilities are required to close.
Despite the worsening infections, Suga stressed his commitment to holding the games safely and securely while protecting the Japanese population by strictly controlling the movements of foreign participants, including possibly expelling journalists covering the event if they defy regulations.
"I understand there are various difficulties, but the priority is to stop the further spread of infections and protect the people's lives and health," Suga said.
While the Japanese PM and Tokyo's organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto and Bach have repeatedly said the games will go on as scheduled, an online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled was submitted to the Tokyo government with over 350,000 signatures.
As per a recently conducted poll, 70-80 per cent of Japanese citizens say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed. However, till now, there is no indication this will happen.
In the worst-hit Osaka area, hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients. Many are waiting at home or hotels with oxygen, and more than a dozen have died without being able to get a hospital room. Coronavirus treatment in Japan is largely limited to public or university hospitals, where treatment of non-COVID-19 patients has been largely curtailed.
Less than 2 per cent, of the public, has been fully vaccinated in Japan, making it one of the world's least inoculated nation.
The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government's initial plan that relied on less stringent measures.
On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new coronavirus cases, increasing its total to 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.