The governors of Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa stepped up their responses to the coronavirus pandemic Monday amid a resurgence of infections, less than a month after Japan fully lifted a second state of emergency. The Osaka governor has said he is considering requesting a new SOE for the prefecture.

Vexing and volatile variants of the coronavirus are adding fuel to the fire as Japan braces for its fourth and possibly largest wave of the pandemic. But which strains are predominant where, and what does it all mean?

As Ryusei Takahashi reports, some areas are testing more than others, so getting an accurate picture is difficult, though some differences between the variant spread between Kansai and the Tokyo metro area are evident.

COVID-19: Japan kicks off vaccinations for elderly | CNA
COVID-19: Japan kicks off vaccinations for elderly | CNA

Vaccinations for those 65 and older finally kicked off Monday, but the slow rollout means struggling businesses and fearful shoppers will have to hold out for longer as the economy’s recovery may be delayed by as much as two years compared with global peers.

Over 60% of people surveyed in a recent poll said they were dissatisfied with the progress of the rollout. The muted response has experts worried that some people will simply try to wait out the pandemic without getting jabs, writes Kaori Shoji in Japan Pulse, which looks at online reaction to the vaccination program.

Monday’s (and last Monday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Osaka 603 (345), Tokyo 306 (249), Hyogo 159 (87), Aichi 122 (45), Chiba 103 (88), Saitama 96 (86), Kanagawa 94 (68), Hokkaido 58 (71), Nara 49 (71), Kyoto 42 (32). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker