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The rapid spread of new and more contagious coronavirus variants across Japan, including in the Tokyo area, is renewing fears that a further rise could push the medical system in the capital to the brink of collapse, Magdalena Osumi reports.

As the nation enjoys the tail end of the Golden Week holiday, growing complacency and mutated variants are prompting concerns that the 17-day state of emergency covering Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures may not be enough to curb the virus’s spread.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Tuesday that the continued spread of the virus and stretched medical system make it increasingly “difficult” to avoid an extension of the state of emergency.

People visit a beach during the Golden Week holidays in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday. | AFP-JIJI
People visit a beach during the Golden Week holidays in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday. | AFP-JIJI

India offers the most stark example of what can happen when more virulent strains become predominant. The country reported more than 368,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 3,400 deaths on Monday.

A 48-year-old Japanese woman in New Delhi was among the fatalities. Her death is believed to be the first of a Japanese national in India linked to COVID-19. She died shortly after arriving at a hospital, having earlier been unable to be admitted due to a lack of beds.

Yesterday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (100 or over): Osaka 884 (1,231), Tokyo 609 (828), Hyogo 337 (505), Fukuoka 239 (277), Hokkaido 233 (121), Aichi 219 (281), Kanagawa 214 (212), Saitama 185 (183), Chiba 124 (129), Kyoto 113 (112). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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