Japan Considers Extending Quasi-Emergency on Record Cases, FNN Says

By BLOOMBERG

Tokyo is setting new guidelines for seeking a state of emergency which better suit the characteristics of omicron — seen as more infectious but posing less severe risk than previous variants.

The guidelines include criteria such as minimum 30% to 40% bed occupancy for seriously ill patients or those hospitalized that need oxygen treatment, as well as the seven-day average number of new infections reaching 24,000, the Tokyo government said in a statement. 

The government had previously said the capital will seek a state of emergency if its hospital bed occupancy rate rises over 50% — later softening the tone as the number of severely ill cases stayed low even when overall infections made new records. More than half of the hospital beds for Covid in the capital are filled as of Wednesday, while the bed usage for severely ill patients is at 5.5%. The capital’s Covid-19 medical system alert was also raised to the highest of four levels on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Japan’s government is considering extending the state of quasi-emergency covering Tokyo and 13 other prefectures by two weeks, FNN reported citing an unidentified government official. A formal decision on the measures, currently set to expire Feb 13, will be made next week, it said. 

The move comes as Japan reported a record of 94,771 new daily cases Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average death toll reached the highest level in more than four months, according to Our World in Data. While the omicron varient poses less severe risk, the high overall infection figure means the number of those getting severely ill has also risen, pushing the figure to a four-month high.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday he’s not considering declaring a state of emergency in Tokyo right now, even as cases jump and the hospital occupancy rate climbs. The capital is currently under a quasi-emergency that calls on places such as eateries and bars to close early and limit alcohol sales. 

Japan’s seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 deaths was 0.33 per million as of Jan. 31, the highest level since September, when the delta wave swept through the country according to Our World in Data. That’s still low compared to 7.34 per million people in the U.S. and 3.86 in the U.K., according to the data.

While about 80% of the population have received two shots of vaccine, only 4% have received a booster dose.