The government is suspending an arrangement allowing business travelers from 11 Asian countries and regions to enter Japan, effectively banning the entry of nonresident foreign travelers, reports Satoshi Sugiyama. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the step had to be taken to prevent new coronavirus variants from entering Japan.

Suga also expanded the country’s state of emergency to cover Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu, Tochigi and Fukuoka, making the order effective in 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, reports Ryusei Takahashi.

With medical facilities stretched, the number of people in Tokyo who were unable to find places for treatment after testing positive for the coronavirus totaled more than 6,000 as of Saturday, a health ministry panel of experts said, double the number a week earlier. Fifty-six people in Japan died at places other than medical institutions in December after contracting COVID-19, police data shows, a sharp rise from 10 or less for the previous seven months.

'Deep Dive' podcast, Episode 77: When will Japan get a vaccine for COVID-19? | THE JAPAN TIMES
‘Deep Dive’ podcast, Episode 77: When will Japan get a vaccine for COVID-19? | THE JAPAN TIMES

With Japan’s cumulative total of novel coronavirus cases topping 300,000 Wednesday, and a record 97 deaths linked to COVID-19 recorded the same day, when will Japan start vaccinating people? Bloomberg reporter Lisa Du joins the “Deep Dive” podcast to discuss why it has fallen so far behind other countries.

Also, host Oscar Boyd’s grandma recounts her experience of being vaccinated in the U.K., which also saw its deadliest day for COVID-19 Wednesday, with 1,564 lives lost. Last Friday, two arthritis drugs, including one developed in Japan, began being administered to COVID-19 patients in the U.K. after trials revealed they cut the risk of death by 24% in severe cases and could also slash the time spent in hospital by seven to 10 days.

Wednesday’s (and Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 1,433 (970), Kanagawa 767 (906), Osaka 536 (374), Chiba 422 (415), Saitama 392 (261), Aichi 319 (132), Hyogo 285 (161), Fukuoka 252 (199), Kyoto 145 (108), Tochigi 141 (83), Hokkaido 109 (145), Shizuoka 92 (39), Kumamoto 81 (66), Ibaraki 77 (70), Gifu 75 (35), Okinawa 66 (27), Hiroshima 60 (33), Gunma 58 (40), Miyagi 52 (17). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker