Tokyo to Revise Virus Monitoring as Concern Grows Over Cases

Tokyo is set to revise how it monitors the state of coronavirus infections in the city, as daily new cases in the Japanese capital rise after a state of emergency was lifted and businesses resumed operations.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government won’t reimpose restrictions on businesses based solely on numerical guidelines, according to Governor Yuriko Koike. Instead, a group of experts will meet weekly to evaluate conditions, looking at multiple factors to determine if the situation is worsening, before making such a request.

The news comes as Tokyo has already crossed some thresholds established previously for considering a return to tighter controls. The city has reported five straight days of more than 50 new coronavirus cases, the highest tallies since early May. About half of the new infections are tied to mass testing of workers in the night-time entertainment areas of Shinjuku, which have become a virus hotspot.

Koike called for caution at such venues and said the city will work with the central government to prevent the spread of the virus. Tokyo will aim to expand virus testing capacity to about 10,000 a day including PCR and antigen testing, she also said.

Tokyo’s rising cases are in focus as the pandemic has accelerated around the globe, with countries including the U.S., Brazil and India contributing to a record number of infections. As cases surpass 10 million worldwide, health experts are watching outbreaks in regions that have reopened for signs of a second wave of infections.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, said Tuesday there was currently no need to reinstate any restrictions, as most of the cases are coming from targeted testing in nightlife districts. Nationwide, the number of cases has remained low, with about half of all daily infections coming from Tokyo.

A seven-day average of 50 new infections a day was one of a series of conditions Koike set out when the city was reopening in May, but officials have been vague on whether crossing that threshold would trigger more restrictions. As of Monday, that level was surpassed, and more than half of new cases’ infection routes could not be traced, according to Tokyo government data.

Unknown Routes

Tokyo will look more closely at the absolute number of new cases where the infection route is unknown in its assessment of coronavirus cases, in addition to previously stated indicators it set out in May such as the week-on-week case increase.

The new monitoring will also place more emphasis on the state of the medical system to handle more patients. Currently, fewer than 10% of 4,800 beds set aside for Covid-19 patients in Tokyo are occupied. While the number of new cases has risen, more than half of the newly infected are those in their 20s and 30s, who typically don’t get seriously ill enough to require hospitalization.

In Tokyo, Shinjuku district has been speedy in dealing with clusters in hostess clubs and other nighttime establishments, according to Kaori Kohga, head of the industry association representing hostesses and clubs.

“Previously, club workers were reluctant to get tested as there was pressure to reveal the business names” if they tested positive, said Kohga. “Now, Shinjuku has promised it will protect personal information.” Coupled with financial assistance promised to Shinjuku residents who can’t work after infection is confirmed, more people are getting tested, she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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