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“We’ve seen a rapid spread of infections, including the spread of virus variant infections. There’s a danger the medical system will collapse,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Wednesday, declaring a medical state of emergency. The announcement came as new COVID-19 cases in the prefecture soared to a record 878, Eric Johnston reports.

Tokyo reported 555 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily total since early February, as Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the capital was preparing to ask the central government to apply quasi-emergency measures to the capital similar to those under the state of emergency it exited on March 21.

A year after the government declared its first state of emergency due to the coronavirus, Japan finds itself back where it started as cases rise and the nation braces for another wave of COVID-19 — this time with the spread of variants throwing an extra dose of unpredictability into the mix.

Osaka governor declares medical emergency and calls off torch relay on public roads | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Osaka governor declares medical emergency and calls off torch relay on public roads | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

Vaccinations are Japan’s best path for escaping this cycle of surges and semi-lockdowns, but the rollout remains slow and doubts persist over whether local authorities have the staff to properly man inoculation sites and deliver the jabs in large quantities, when those quantities arrive.

The health ministry began operating a multilingual service last week at its call center for inquiries about the effectiveness of approved COVID-19 vaccines (so far there is only Pfizer’s) and side effects. Calls are accepted in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.

Wednesday’s (and last Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Osaka 878 (599), Tokyo 555 (414), Hyogo 328 (211), Aichi 188 (99), Saitama 158 (152), Okinawa 155 (111), Kanagawa 118 (137), Miyagi 118 (200), Kyoto 93 (57), Nara 81 (46), Chiba 76 (106), Hokkaido 72 (76). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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