Japan has far fewer COVID-19 cases than many Western countries and more beds per capita. At the same time, the nation’s hospitals are close to breaking point. What’s going on? As Osamu Tsukimori reports, there are other factors at play, such as doctor and nurse numbers, that help explain this predicament.

Considering the stretched health care system and with deaths among COVID-19 patients hitting a record 119 across Japan on Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga confirmed that the state of emergency will stay in place across 10 prefectures, as the government seeks to turn the page on the third wave, Satoshi Sugiyama reports.

A senior ruling party official is already suggesting that the Go To Travel domestic tourism discount program should be rebooted as soon as the emergency ends to shore up the tourist industry, despite a study last month that indicated the campaign may have spread the coronavirus.

Japan extends COVID-19 state of emergency in 10 prefectures until March 7
 | CNA
Japan extends COVID-19 state of emergency in 10 prefectures until March 7 | CNA

The minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, meanwhile, expressed concern Tuesday as the EU tightened its export controls on coronavirus vaccines produced within the bloc. Taro Kono suggested the move could affect the schedule for inoculations in the country, just days after he warned that growing nationalism over COVID-19 shots could disrupt global supplies.

The pandemic has cast a harsh light on Japan’s inability to research, develop and produce supplies in a timely manner, writes commentator Yasuhiro Suzuki. But it didn’t have to be this way — there was a time when Japan was at the cutting edge of the vaccine industry, and it can be again, argues Suzuki.

Tuesday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 556 (1,024), Saitama 247 (253), Chiba 222 (340), Osaka 211 (343), Kanagawa 187 (394), Hyogo 135 (153), Hokkaido 105 (106), Aichi 101 (215), Fukuoka 77 (155), Kyoto 56 (113). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker