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Tokyo governor warns of possible 'explosion' in COVID-19 cases

Tokyo governor warns of possible 'explosion' in COVID-19 cases

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers wearing protective masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, look around shops at Ameyoko shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, Dec 29, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

TOKYO: The COVID-19 situation in Tokyo is severe and could explode in the coming days just as Japan begins its New Year's holiday period, in which millions of people usually move around the country, the city's governor said on Wednesday (Dec 30).

The capital recorded 944 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, just under the record 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that unless the outbreak is checked the city could soon see over 1,000 new patients a day.

"Please emphasise life over fun," Governor Yuriko Koike told a news conference, calling on people to stay at home as much as possible over the holiday.

Tokyo was at a critical juncture, with cold winter weather forecast and highly contagious variant strains of the coronavirus from Britain and South Africa already detected in Japan, Koike said.

"The situation is extremely severe, we are facing up to a huge wave of virus cases we have not seen before," she added.

"The number of cases could explode at any time. Any one of us could become infected at any time ... If we do not stamp this out now, we will be facing a much worse situation."

READ: Former minister dies of COVID-19 as Japan closes to foreigners

About 3,400 people had died in Japan from the coronavirus in total as of late Tuesday, out of some 227,390 cases, NHK public television said.

Japan on Monday detected a coronavirus variant found in South Africa, the government said, the first such discovery in a nation that has already identified more than a dozen cases of another variant that is spreading rapidly in Britain.

The announcement of the detection of the South Africa-linked variant comes after the Japanese government on Monday started banning the entry of non-resident foreign nationals following the discovery of the UK variant in Japan.

READ: Japan's Suga urges citizens to have a quiet and distanced New Year

Japan has deals to buy 120 million doses of the COVID-19 from Pfizer-BioNTech in the first half of 2021 and 120 million from AstraZeneca - the first 30 million to be shipped by March 2021 - and 250 million from Novavax.

It is also in talks with Johnson & Johnson, and has a deal with Shionogi & Co Ltd.

Experts said vaccine makers would need to run at least Phase I and II trials in Japan before seeking approval for use.

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Source: Reuters/kv

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