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Editorial: PM Suga's optimism questionable amid Tokyo's 5th wave of COVID-19 cases

The fifth wave of coronavirus infections in Tokyo, which comes amid a state of emergency in the capital while the Olympic Games are in full swing, shows no sign of abating.

    On July 28, the number of coronavirus cases in the capital topped 3,100, reaching a daily high for the second day in a row. The average for the week was about 1.5 times higher than that of the previous week.

    What makes the situation serious is that while over two weeks have passed since the state of emergency was issued, the number of infections has not decreased -- unlike during previous states of emergency.

    Serious COVID-19 cases have increased predominantly among those in their 50s, many of whom have not yet been vaccinated. But even among those with moderate symptoms, there are some people who need to be given high concentrations of oxygen, requiring the same kind of medical support as that given to people with severe symptoms of the respiratory disease.

    Moreover, it is becoming increasingly difficult to quickly find hospitals to give people emergency medical care, and regular medical treatment will likely be restricted to secure beds for coronavirus patients. In the medical field, a sense of crisis over the hospital bed crunch is growing stronger.

    In Saitama and other prefectures whose living spheres overlap with Tokyo, infection numbers are reaching record highs. The government should declare a state of emergency in those prefectures and take aligned measures.

    Unless the number of infections is brought under control, the overall number of COVID-19 patients will continue to increase, and the medical system will eventually reach its breaking point. Yet we see no sense of urgency in the response taken by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

    Even though the number of infections has been rising, Suga has merely called for people to "avoid going out unnecessarily, and to watch the Olympics on TV."

    Suga has also rejected the possibility of canceling the Olympics, stating that "the flow of people is decreasing, and there are no concerns."

    But in fact, crowds have not decreased compared to during the previous state of emergency. And the spread of a strongly infectious variant of the coronavirus is a cause for concern.

    The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has stated that if there is a major change in the state of coronavirus infections, then it will hold five-party talks with the Tokyo metropolitan and central governments and others to discuss a response. It is necessary to pay attention to changes in the situation, and adapt to the circumstances.

    It has been pointed out the effects of the state of emergency are growing weaker. Members of the public are growing tired of self-restraint and are becoming accustomed to the pandemic, and the number of restaurants not complying with requests to shorten business hours is increasing.

    The prime minister will not be able to win the public's cooperation with weakly grounded optimism. To avoid a worst-case scenario of a collapse of Japan's medical system, the prime minister should send out a clear message to ensure that people thoroughly follow coronavirus countermeasures and don't let their guard down.

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