The Japanese government is preparing on Friday to declare a state of emergency once again in Tokyo and in three other departments, three months before the start of the Olympic Games scheduled in the Japanese capital, in the face of a sharp local upsurge of the coronavirus.

"We have a strong sense of crisis," Japanese minister in charge of the fight against the virus, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said on Friday.

"We will not be able to contain the variants which have powerful infectious capacities, unless we take stronger measures than those taken so far," he added.

An official declaration of a state of emergency was expected later in the day, the measure initially affecting Tokyo and three departments in the west of the country: Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.

No impact on the Games?

Establishments serving alcohol (restaurants, bars, karaoke, etc.) will have to close their doors from this Sunday until May 11 inclusive, as well as shopping centers and department stores.

According to local media, these measures, which will coincide with the holidays of the "Golden Week", a period of the year when the Japanese usually travel a lot, could involve the suspension of certain lines of train and bus to limit mobility.

Authorities in relevant departments are also likely to ban spectator access to sporting events, but officials have insisted the emergency measures will not affect the staging of the Tokyo Olympics.

Vaccination at a standstill (or almost)

The Japanese archipelago, which very quickly closed its borders last year, has experienced a relatively limited health crisis, with less than 10,000 deaths officially recorded since January 2020. But infections have increased during the winter, despite a second state of emergency in much of the country, and rebounded again after the lifting of this device in March.

Authorities in Osaka, the currently worst affected department, said local health facilities were already overwhelmed.

Vaccination in Japan is progressing at a snail's pace, between medical caution, regulatory brakes and bureaucratic red tape: less than 1% of its population has been vaccinated so far.


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