Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. Picture: REUTERS/KAZUHIRO NOGI
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. Picture: REUTERS/KAZUHIRO NOGI

Japan is facing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, as cases spiral out of control and strain the limits of the nation’s healthcare system.

The country recorded 25,146 new infections Thursday, the highest to date and more than 10 times the daily count from a month ago. There were 33 deaths, including the internationally known Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, Nikkei reported Thursday night.

The virus began to surge in mid-July, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, just before Tokyo hosted the 2020 Olympics. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier in August he didn’t think the Olympics triggered the increase in cases. 

There were 5,534 infections recorded Thursday in Tokyo, the second-highest level since the pandemic began. The city is set to host the Paralympics from August 24. Spectators won’t be allowed in most events.

The government is working to squelch the outbreak through social distancing and mitigation measures, in addition to encouraging vaccinations. It extended the state of emergency for Tokyo until September 12 and expanded it to include the neighbouring prefectures of Ibaraki and Tochigi, as well as the old capital city Kyoto, Suga announced Tuesday. 

The actions haven’t yet achieved their intended effects, said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top Covid-19 adviser, according to a Jiji report on Wednesday. Hospitals are facing a shortage of beds, and growing numbers of people are being forced to recover at home. Japan must take the cases of those waiting to be admitted into the hospital into consideration, he said.

The results of some people being unable to get proper care are dire. The newborn child of a Covid-19-infected pregnant woman died after she couldn’t get into a hospital and had to give birth at home, NHK reported Thursday.

The worsening situation is putting pressure on the economy and the government. 

Toyota, the world’s top-selling carmaker, said it would cut 40% of its planned production. It cited a chip shortage due to the spread of Covid-19 in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, a new survey found that most Japanese firms wanted Suga to be replaced, while polls showed the public was dissatisfied with his handling of the pandemic.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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