TOKYO (Reuters) – Health experts placed Tokyo on high alert for coronavirus infections on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in cases to record levels, while the governor of the Japanese capital said the situation was “rather serious”. Visitors wearing protective masks are seen at a sanctuary in the midst of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic in Tokyo, Japan, July 15, 2020. REUTERS / Issei Kato The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the increasing pressure from policymakers on the shore the world’s No. 3 economy, which analysts say is expected to decline at its fastest pace in decades during the year due to the pandemic. “It is a fact that the number of patients is increasing a bit and surpassing the peaks,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine Hospital, noting that the infection rate in Tokyo was at the “red” stage ” – the highest of the four levels of the metropolitan system. Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are increasing, Ohmagari said in a meeting with Tokyo officials. Governor Yuriko Koike reiterated her calls to the people of Tokyo to be vigilant, saying, “I understand that we are in a rather serious situation now.” The Tokyo government will respond to experts’ opinions accordingly, Koike said, before a press conference later today. Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, local municipalities and opposition lawmakers also urged the central government to suspend a major “Go To” travel assistance campaign aimed at boosting domestic tourism . Leaders in some rural cities say that, driven by the countryside, travel inside and outside high-risk areas like Tokyo can lead to widespread community transmission. The pandemic in Japan will turn into a “human-made” disaster if the travel program continues, Soichiro Miyashita, mayor of the city of Mutsu in Aomori prefecture, warned. But Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government would carefully continue the campaign, which includes discounts for shopping and food. “Obviously, we will take into account the thoughts of many of our fellow citizens, while monitoring the situation ahead,” said Nishimura, who heads government policy on coronaviruses, in Parliament. The program, among the government’s main initiatives to boost economic activity and which is slated to start this month, has also been criticized for its costs because it subcontracts back-office work to a private contractor. In Tokyo, daily virus cases have exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, hitting a record high of 243 last Friday, as tests of nightclub workers in its red light districts showed an increase in infections among people aged 20 to 30. Governor Koike reiterated that people should avoid restaurants that do not have appropriate infection control measures. Health experts noted that hospitals in Tokyo were overcrowded, with the number of patients doubling from the previous week. Tokyo’s latest cluster has been traced back to a theater with at least 37 cases in Shinjuku, a bustling entertainment area and home to one of Asia’s largest red light districts that has been the center of a recent outbreak of infections . Report by Chang-Ran Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Richard Pullin and Himani Sarkar Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. .
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