TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan reached the milestone of one million coronavirus cases on Friday, domestic media reported, as infections soared in Olympic host Tokyo and other urban areas as the country struggled to contain the Delta variant.
New cases in Tokyo hit 4,515, the second highest after Thursday’s record 5,042, while the neighbouring, populous prefecture of Kanagawa saw its cases soaring to more than 2,000, quadrupling in less than two weeks.
Infections in Osaka, the biggest city in the country’s west, also rose to a record-breaking 1,310, in a sign the pathogen is quickly spreading outside Tokyo.
The total number of cases since the pandemic began last year is now above one million, tarnishing the country’s early success in containing the disease.
While the contagion appears to quickly spread from the capital to other regions, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga struck a cautious tone on expanding a state of emergency to the entire country.
“We need to take into account local conditions. Each region can take their own step,” Suga told reporters in Hiroshima, where he attended a ceremony to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
Still, the worsening health crisis is likely to put pressure on Suga ahead of an election that must be held by October.
Suga also said any decision on whether to allow spectators in the Paralympics, scheduled on Aug. 24-Sept. 5, will be made after the end of the Olympics on Aug. 8.
Suga reiterated that he did not think holding the Games contributed to rising infections.
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