Japan COVID cases hit 1 million as infections spread beyond Tokyo


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TOKYO, Aug.6 (Reuters) – Japan hit a milestone of one million coronavirus cases on Friday, national media reported, as infections rose in the Olympic host from Tokyo to other urban areas and the country is grappling with an unprecedented rate of spread of the Delta variant.

A driver for Finance Minister Taro Aso had caught COVID-19, the finance ministry said, prompting Aso to self-quarantine at his home. Aso showed no symptoms but underwent a PCR test, the results of which will be released on Saturday, the Kyodo news wire reported.

With a record 15,645 new cases reported on Friday, the total since the start of the pandemic last year now exceeds one million, tarnishing Japan’s early successes in containing the disease.

It still has the lowest cumulative cases by population among the most industrialized countries in the Group of Seven, less than a tenth of American cases and a fifth of German cases.

The number has increased by 144,000 since the start of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated that he did not believe that holding the Games was contributing to the increase in infections.

New cases in Tokyo reached 4,515, the second highest after Thursday’s record of 5,042, while neighboring and populous Kanagawa prefecture saw its cases skyrocket to 2,082, quadruple in less than two weeks.

Infections in Osaka, the largest city in the west of the country, also hit a record 1310, a sign that the virus is spreading rapidly outside Tokyo.

As infections appear to be spreading rapidly from the capital to other areas, Suga has adopted a cautious tone in extending the state of emergency to the entire country.

“We have to take local conditions into account. Each region can take its own step,” Suga told reporters in Hiroshima, where he attended a ceremony to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing.

Still, the worsening health crisis – which has led the government to tighten its guidelines on hospitalizations – is likely to put pressure on Suga ahead of an election due by October. Read more

Suga also said any decision on whether or not to allow spectators to attend the Paralympic Games, scheduled for August 24. 5, will be made after the end of the Olympics on August 8.

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano, Makiko Yamazaki, Takashi Umekawa and Linda Sieg; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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