Virus Spreads Beyond Nightclubs as Tokyo Braces for More Cases

The latest flare-up in coronavirus cases in Tokyo is showing signs it’s spreading beyond nightclubs and known hotspot areas, as the Japanese capital braces for more infections after cases topped 200 for the fourth straight day.

New outbreak clusters tied to a childcare center, where around 22 children and teachers were confirmed to have the virus, and a theater house where 30 people including actors and guests tested positive, were reported in Tokyo over the weekend, according to domestic media.

New daily infections in Japan have mostly been tied to the Tokyo area, but the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba are also starting to see increased reports of Covid-19. Government officials have avoided calling for broader restrictions in response to the spread, saying the issue is localized and the medical system is not under strain. Speaking in Hokkaido on Saturday, Chief Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the infections a “Tokyo problem,” according to Japanese media.

Japan’s flare-up is part of a resurgence in cases across Asia from Hong Kong to Melbourne. Rather than resort to full-blown lockdowns, many are seeking targeted approaches to let their economies continue to recover. Countries around the globe are seeking to reopen their battered economies after an initial success with virus prevention efforts, only to wrestle with new clusters of infections.

The infections in the broader Tokyo area have become a point of increased concern as new clusters emerge, and as the government is set to begin a campaign to subsidize domestic travel. The effort to spark economic activity could bring increased numbers of city dwellers to the countryside, and has been criticized on social media as residents worry that they’ll bring an increased risk of infection.

Read more: Japan Urges Urbanites to Tour Country, Sparking Virus Fear

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the coronavirus response, urged Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike over the weekend to consider imposing business restrictions on restaurants and bars that weren’t taking “thorough” measures against coronavirus.

In Kansai, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan centered around the city of Osaka, officials are also seeing growing case numbers. On Sunday, the Osaka government lifted its coronavirus alert level to advise residents to be more cautious after reporting an increase in number of untraceable infections and 32 new cases, the highest daily tally since Japan ended its state of emergency in May.

In the southern island of Okinawa, the U.S. military has reported at least 60 cases among soldiers in recent days and two Marine bases have been locked down, according to the Associated Press. The island hosts a majority of the U.S. military presence in Japan. Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki sought tougher measures and more transparency from the U.S.

Japan has put off a nationwide lock-down — saying the medical system is intact and that most new infections are younger patients who do not have serious symptoms. Last Friday, the country began allowing large-scale events up to a maximum of 5,000 people, such as sporting events and musical concerts.

Read more: Japan Pushes Re-Opening as New Virus Cases Reach Record in Tokyo

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