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Tokyo will ask the government to extend a state of emergency by about two weeks for the capital and three neighboring prefectures due to a slowdown in the decline of COVID-19 cases, the Nikkei daily reported Tuesday, as the nationwide death toll from the novel coronavirus rose above 8,000.

While new cases have fallen significantly from a peak in January, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said that the pace of decline had eased, expressing concern that “we may not make it in time” to lift curbs on March 7 as scheduled.

In fact, there are strong indications that public data for the Tokyo region may not be giving the full picture, reports Ryusei Takahashi. Low testing, case miscounts, the absence in the data of tests conducted by private firms — not to mention efforts to scale back contact tracing — all hint at the possibility that an unknown number of cases have gone unreported.

The streets of Ameyoko, a shopping district in Tokyo's Taito Ward, on Sunday. The government is set to discuss whether the state of emergency for the Tokyo metropolitan area can be lifted. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
The streets of Ameyoko, a shopping district in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, on Sunday. The government is set to discuss whether the state of emergency for the Tokyo metropolitan area can be lifted. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

While Japan has so far only approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for use, U.S. biotech firm Moderna is planning to apply for the health ministry’s green light for its vaccine as early as Friday, sources tell Kyodo. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also been awaiting approval for a month.

The vaccination rollout hit a minor snag over the weekend after a freezer malfunction rendered more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses unusable. The government says the incident is under investigation. Also, a woman in Japan who received a Pfizer shot Friday died on Monday, although whether the vaccine was a factor in the death is unknown, the health ministry says.

Tuesday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 232 (275), Saitama 102 (105), Chiba 87 (90), Kanagawa 84 (97), Osaka 81 (100), Hyogo 44 (24), Aichi 34 (51), Hokkaido 29 (66), Miyagi 21 (12). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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