• Kyodo, Jiji

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that higher temperatures in the summer are unlikely to slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus in Japan, given that infections are high even in the Middle East.

“We cannot rest easy just because it’s summer, as the infection is spreading in the Middle East where temperatures are high,” Abe said on an internet program, downplaying the idea that hotter conditions could play a role in lowering infections.

Temperatures in the Middle East have topped 35 degrees Celsius in cities such as Tehran and Riyadh, where statistics by the World Health Organization as of Sunday showed around 185,000 and 123,000 cases have been confirmed, respectively.

Qatar, where the highest temperature has been around 40 degrees Celsius over the past two weeks, has seen the average daily infection figure during the period stay at around 1,500, higher than that for April when it was cooler.

Abe reaffirmed that the government is looking to expand medical and testing schemes against the virus ahead of a potential second wave of infections.

He said the development of a smartphone application to notify users of potential contact with someone diagnosed with the virus infection is in its final stages, with its release aimed for this week.

Abe also said the country is in talks with overseas pharmaceutical firms on securing vaccines for the novel coronavirus toward year-end.

Work by Moderna Inc. of the United States and AstraZeneca PLC of Britain to develop coronavirus vaccines is progressing, he said.

“Japan is in negotiations (with the two companies) to make sure that our country can secure the vaccines once they are completed,” he said, noting that vaccination may start as early as the end of this year.

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