• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga asked Japan’s largest business lobby Wednesday to help reduce the number of commuters through telework, as the increasingly rampant novel coronavirus puts a strain on the country’s medical system.

Meeting Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation known as Keidanren, at its office in Tokyo, Suga said: “Telework is an effective countermeasure. It may be difficult for some businesses to implement it, but I ask for your cooperation.”

Tokura responded that he will notify Keidanren members of the request, with an aim to slash the number of commuters by 70%.

Tokura told reporters after the meeting that he urged Suga to make an antibody cocktail treatment widely available, to which Suga responded he would do so.

The treatment, in which COVID-19 patients are administered casirivimab and imdevimab intravenously, lowers the risk of hospitalization or death by about 70%, according to overseas clinical trials.

The meeting was held as Japan sees an unprecedented rise in coronavirus cases nationwide due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in severe condition rose to 1,716 as of Tuesday, up 70 from the day before and breaking the record for the sixth consecutive day, according to the health ministry. The figure had been on the decline after hitting a high of 1,413 on May 25, but it started to rise again from mid-July.

Due to the increase in such patients, the government decided to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and five other areas to Sept. 12, while expanding the measure to seven more prefectures.

During a news conference on Tuesday to explain the government decision, Suga said he would ask businesses to reduce the number of commuters by 70% as many did in spring last year.

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