Japan to extend virus emergency with safe Olympics at stake

Japan extended a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas for 20 more days on Friday, with infections still not slowing as it prepares to host the Olympics in just over 50 days.

Cases remain high and medical systems in Osaka, the hardest-hit area in western Japan, are still overburdened, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in announcing the decision.

The current state of emergency in the capital and eight other metropolitan areas was to end next Monday, but hospitals in some areas are still overflowing with COVID-19 patients and serious cases have recently hit new highs.

The 20-day extension covers nine areas ranging from Hokkaido in the north to Fukuoka in the south. A 10th area, the southern island prefecture of Okinawa, is already under emergency status through June 20.

The Olympics are scheduled to start July 23 after a one-year postponement due to the pandemic, and worries about new variants and Japan’s slow vaccination rollout have triggered calls from the public, medical experts and even a sponsor to cancel the games.

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