Japan grapples with fresh surge of Covid-19 a year after first case

Tokyo, Jan 15 (efe-epa).- Japan is marking a year since its first confirmed Covid-19 cases with a second state of emergency in several region, including the capital, amid a surge in cases and deaths.

According to official data, around 40% of all confirmed Covid-19 cases and related deaths occurred in the last month alone.

The first known case of Covid-19 in Japan was declared on 15 January 2020, although reports of a suspected case came the previous day. The case was linked to a Chinese resident of Kanagawa prefecture who had recently visited Wuhan, in China, from where the virus is believed to have originated.

The number of cases grew over the following months until the country declared its first state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures on 7 April (it would later be extended nationwide) when the total number of infections stood at 4,300.

According to the latest health ministry data, Japan logged 6,600 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total caseload since the beginning of the outbreak to 309,214.

The number of deaths attributed to the disease in the country is at least 4,315.

Tokyo authorities reported 2,001 new cases in the capital on Friday.

The national coronavirus figures for Friday will be published on Saturday but according to an unofficial count by public broadcaster NHK, the toll is set to breach 4,000.

The growing number of cases since November led the Japanese government to declare a second state of emergency on 7 January. It currently affects 11 of 47 prefectures responsible for 80% of the country’s infections. The area encompasses more than half the national population.

The emergency measure does not legally obligate Japanese residents to remain at home but recommends that all but essential trips outside the household be avoided. Bars, restaurants and shops must now all close by 8 pm.

The nation has also banned entry to non-residents, save for a few exceptional cases.

But the new health emergency has been met with indifference by many, which has prompted authorities to mull harsher penalties, ranging from fines to prison sentences for those who refuse to be hospitalized (obligatory for Covid patients in Japan) or fail to cooperate with the track and trace system. EFE-EPA


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