Japan’s Virus Cases Hit a Record as Hospitals Are Overwhelmed

A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment collects a swab sample at the drive-thru coronavirus testing center in Japan. (Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Japan’s Virus Cases Hit a Record as Hospitals Are Overwhelmed

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Japan is facing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, as cases spiral out of control and strain the limits of the nation’s health care system.

The country recorded 25,146 new infections Thursday, the highest ever and more than 10 times the daily count from a month ago. There were 33 deaths, including the internationally known Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, Nikkei reported Thursday night.

The virus began to surge in mid-July, driven by the more infectious delta variant, just before Tokyo hosted the 2020 Olympics. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier this month he didn’t think the Olympics triggered the increase in cases. 

Japan’s Virus Cases Hit a Record as Hospitals Are Overwhelmed

There were 5,534 infections recorded Thursday in Tokyo, the second highest level since the pandemic began. The city is set to host the Paralympics starting Aug. 24. Spectators won’t be allowed in most events.

The government is working to squelch the outbreak through social distancing and mitigation measures, in addition to encouraging vaccinations. It extended the state of emergency for Tokyo through Sept. 12 and expanded it to include the neighboring prefectures of Ibaraki and Tochigi, as well as the old capital city Kyoto, Suga announced Tuesday. 

The actions haven’t yet achieved their intended effects, said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top Covid adviser, according to a Jiji report on Wednesday. Hospitals are facing a shortage of beds, and growing numbers of people are being forced to recover at home. Japan must take the cases of those waiting to be admitted into the hosptial into consideration, he said.

The results of some people being unable to get proper care are dire. The newborn child of a Covid-infected pregnant woman died after she couldn’t get into a hospital and had to give birth at home, NHK reported Thursday.

The worsening situation is putting pressure on the economy and the government. 

Toyota Motor Corp. , the world’s top-selling automaker, said it will cut 40% of its planned production. It cited a chip shortage due to the spread of Covid in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, a new survey found most Japanese firms want Suga to be replaced, while polls show the public is dissatisfied with his handling of the pandemic.

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