The Japanese government has recommended extending a state of emergency that includes Tokyo and other major cities, in a last-ditch effort to rein in COVID-19 infections ahead of the capital hosting the Olympic Games in less than two months.
Japanese Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government’s point man for pandemic policy, yesterday said that the state of emergency that was due to end on Monday would be extended to June 20, a little more than a month before the Olympics start.
The extension is for Tokyo, Osaka and seven prefectures that comprise about half of the nation’s economy.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was to announce the formal decision, which was expected later yesterday.
Suga faces enormous pressure to keep the COVID-19 outbreak under control, as the public is worried the global sports spectacle could turn into a superspreader event, but he has few tools left to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Japanese government is running one of the slowest vaccination programs in the developed world, so far giving just 10.6 million shots, compared with 291 million in the US.
“If the current situations continue, it will be very difficult to hold the Olympics,” Tokyo Medical Association chairman Haruo Ozaki said in an online briefing on Thursday. “In that sense, this is the last chance.”
Nearly 60 percent of respondents in a Yomiuri newspaper poll this month said that the Games should be called off and the Asahi newspaper, a sponsor of the event, wrote in an editorial on Wednesday that Suga should make the decision to cancel.
A decision on whether to hold the Tokyo Olympics must be made by the end of next month at the latest, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said in an interview with Jiji Press.
The committee has the final say, but in a statement this week it said all Games-related decisions “have always been and will always be taken in full agreement of all parties.”
The Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on July 23.
The extension comes after the US government on Monday said that Americans should avoid traveling to Japan because of the outbreak.
The warning — which came despite far lower infection rates in Japan than in the US — was a fresh blow to a nation struggling to convince the international community that it is ready to host the Olympics delayed from last year.
The latest state of emergency, put in place late last month, helped reduce the daily number of recorded infections in the capital from 1,027 on April 29 to 684 on Thursday.
The restrictions have meant that bars and restaurants have to close at 8pm, and are banned from selling alcohol, while some large stores have been closed.
Analysts factoring in a longer emergency now see a larger chance of the Japanese economy suffering a second straight quarterly contraction.
“Japan’s imminent extension to its virus emergency probably spells another recession,” said Yuki Masujima of Bloomberg Economics.
Canceling the Tokyo Olympics could then inflict further economic damage — it would cause a direct economic loss of about ￥1.4 trillion (US$12.75 billion), Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute chief economist Toshihiro Nagahama said.
Takahide Kiuchi at Nomura Research Institute estimated the figure at ￥1.8 trillion, based mainly on lost consumption.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday issued a rebuttal to former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who said a fistfight in the Legislative Yuan might have been “provoked from the outside” to destabilize Taiwan. Rice made the comment in an online discussion about the AUKUS alliance of Australia, the UK and the US hosted by the Policy Exchange forum in London on Thursday. On mention of Taiwan, she was quoted by The Australian as predicting that Beijing would use paramilitary forces and acts of sabotage to destabilize the nation. “There was a fistfight in the Taiwanese parliament a few weeks ago
ADVANCING TECH: With revenue on target to reach US$15.4 billion, the Hsinchu-based chipmaker said it is looking to produce 3-nanometer chips later this year Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday announced plans to build a new plant in Japan next year to produce 22-nanometer and 28-nanometer chips in its latest effort to expand its global manufacturing footprint. The Japanese fab is to start operations in 2024, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker said, ending months of speculation. “We have received strong commitment to supporting this project from our customers and the Japanese government,” TSMC chief executive officer C.C. Wei (魏哲家) told a quarterly investors’ conference. “We believe the expansion of our global manufacturing footprint will enable us to better serve our customers’ needs and reach global talent,
KNOWN ISSUES: Fire safety issues were found in the 40-year-old building, which previously housed a theater and restaurants, in 2019, last year and May, an official said Forty-six people died and 41 were injured in a building fire that raged out of control for hours overnight in Kaohsiung, authorities said yesterday. Flames and smoke billowed from the lower floors of the 13-story Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) building on Fubei Road in Yancheng District (鹽埕), as firefighters tried to douse the blaze from the street and aerial platforms. The death toll rose steadily through the day as rescue workers searched the combined commercial and residential building. By late afternoon, authorities said 32 bodies had been found, while a further 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55
China’s recent increase in military exercises and warplane missions near Taiwan was necessary to defend sovereignty and territory, a Chinese official said yesterday, prompting Taipei to say that it had sabotaged peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. China’s military flew 56 planes off the southwest coast of Taiwan on a single day earlier this month, a single-day record that capped four days of a sustained pressure campaign involving 149 flights in international airspace. The purpose of the maneuvers was to “fundamentally safeguard the overall interests of the Chinese nation and the vital interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan