Tokyo declares coronavirus 'red' alert, governor calls situation 'rather severe'

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Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike shows a banner reading ‘infection spread alert’ as she attends a news conference on the latest situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Japan’s capital. (Kyodo/Reuters)

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Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest “red” level on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in daily new cases to record highs, with Gov. Yuriko Koike describing the situation in Japan’s capital as “rather severe.”

In Tokyo, daily virus cases exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, touching an all-time high of 243 last Friday as testing among nightclub workers in its red-light districts showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s. Health experts noted Tokyo hospitals were getting crowded as the number of patients doubled from the previous week.

“We are in a situation where we should issue warnings to citizens and businesses,” Koike told a press conference, urging residents to refrain from unnecessary travel. The infection rate in Tokyo is at stage “red,” the highest of four levels in the metropolis’s system, Koike said, citing the analysis by health experts who cautioned earlier in the day that infections were going up quite a bit and “exceeding peaks.”

She also pledged to step up testing for the virus by utilizing equipment at universities. “My understanding is that we’re in a rather severe situation now,” Koike said.

WATCH | India reimposes lockdown as worldwide COVID-19 cases soar:

Millions of people worldwide have been forced back into lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar in several countries, including India which is expected to hit one million cases this week. 2:00

The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world’s third-largest economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

“It is a fact that the number of patients is going up quite a bit and exceeding peaks,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine Hospital.

Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are rising, Ohmagari said at a meeting with Tokyo officials.

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 aid campaign that aims to boost domestic tourism.

But Japan’s economy minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said the government will cautiously proceed with the campaign, which includes discounts for shopping and food.

As of 8:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the global coronavirus case count stood at 13,349,649, with 579,335 deaths due to the virus and 7,430,172 cases considered recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.


What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 8:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 108,486 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 72,170 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,836.

WATCH | Most of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are in people under 40:

Health officials are voicing concern as the majority of new COVID-19 cases are being found in people under the age of 40, especially as more bars and restaurants open for indoor service. 2:03

A group of Ontario child-care operators is asking the province to allow the sector to fully reopen in September. The six operators said a government plan that restricts capacity could result in the closure of some centres.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said this week that the province was planning to expand the number of children allowed in daycare centres effective July 27, from the current cohorts of 10 to 15 children. Lecce said that should help restore 90 per cent of the province’s pre-pandemic child-care system capacity.

The providers call the cohort numbers “arbitrary” and say they will reduce available child-care spaces for families. The group says full capacity can be accommodated safely if they adhere to strict physical distancing and the recommendations for school reopenings made by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.


Here’s what’s happening around the world

Levels of childhood immunizations against dangerous diseases such as measles, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped alarmingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting millions of children at risk, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.

“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a joint report with UNICEF.

Three-quarters of the 82 countries that responded to a survey for the report said they had suffered coronavirus-related disruptions to their immunization programs as of May 2020. Most problems were linked to a lack of sufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers, travel restrictions, and low health worker staffing levels — all of which led to immunization services being curbed or shut down.


Stricter health checks went into effect at Greece’s border with Bulgaria following an increase in tourism-related COVID-19 cases. Starting Wednesday, all incoming travellers crossing the border are required to carry negative coronavirus test results issued in the previous 72 hours and translated into English.

The new rules saw a drop in arrivals compared to recent days early Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there will be an inquiry into the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the future, but now is not the time as the battle to combat it is ongoing.

“We will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened,” he said on Wednesday.

France’s tourism industry received a further boost Wednesday with the partial reopening of Disneyland Paris and the opening up of the top floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Disneyland Paris, Europe’s most frequented theme park resort, will feature enhanced safety measures including managed attendance, reduced capacity to support physical distancing, and bolstered cleaning and disinfection of rides and spaces.

Eiffel Tower officials have said a maximum of 250 people will now be allowed at the top floor at a time to enjoy the panoramic views of the city.

WATCH | Infectious disease specialist on new phases of freedom and avoiding a lockdown:

Quebec’s move to impose mask wearing across the province while opening up more is a reasonable trade-off, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. 6:01

Some 160,000 people in the Spanish region of Catalonia returned to confinement on Wednesday as authorities scrambled to control a fresh surge of coronavirus infections in the area, just weeks after a nationwide lockdown was lifted.

A judge finally approved the regional government’s stay-at-home order for residents of the city of Lleida and six nearby towns on Tuesday night after several days of legal wrangling and political tensions over the issue.

A health worker wearing a protective mask walks past a field hospital outside Arnau de Vilanova hospital in Lleida, Spain. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Zimbabwe has postponed the reopening of schools scheduled for the end of this month, citing rising numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government had insisted on a phased reopening of schools despite resistance from teachers’ unions, who argued the move would endanger pupils and teachers because of lack of adequate planning and personal protective gear such as face masks and sanitizers.

Also, physical distancing would be nearly impossible in many schools where up to 70 pupils are often crammed into small classrooms, the unions said. Many schools, like much of the country, have no running water, making it difficult for pupils, teachers and other school workers to practise hygiene methods such as handwashing.

The confirmed coronavirus cases reached 1,064 Wednesday and 20 deaths, up from seven at the end of June.

Residents of Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, were warned on Wednesday to comply with lockdown regulations or face tougher restrictions. Melbourne’s five million people and part of the city’s semi-rural surroundings are a week into a six-week lockdown to contain a new outbreak there.

“The time for warnings, the time for cutting people slack is over,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said. “Where we are is in a very serious and deadly position.”

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus. Victoria reported another 238 cases in the past 24 hours.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews urged people in his state to abide by lockdown restrictions due to a growing coronavirus outbreak. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Indian authorities will impose lockdowns in high-risk areas in nearly a dozen states as the nation’s coronavirus caseload approaches one million.

A two-week lockdown starting Thursday has been imposed in Bihar, a state in eastern India with 128 million people and a fragile health system. Since Saturday, Bihar has recorded over 1,000 cases each day despite limited testing.

India’s key southern technology hub, Bangalore, where the offices of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are located, was put under a weeklong lockdown Wednesday. About a dozen other states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam have also put high-risk areas in lockdown, allowing only essential food supplies and health services.

A woman gets a nasal swab sample taken to test for the coronavirus in Hyderabad, India. (Mahesh Kumar A./The Associated Press)

Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with public gatherings limited to four people, restaurants restricted to takeout after 6 p.m., and a one-week closure for gyms, karaoke bars and selected other businesses. Masks also are mandated on public transit for the first time, with the non-compliant being fined.

China is further easing restrictions on domestic tourism after reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 in nine days. A directive from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism dated Tuesday said that tourist sites should allow 50 per cent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 per cent, and that inter-province group tours should be resumed.

The National Health Commission said that six new cases were recorded Tuesday, all in people who had arrived from overseas. It has not reported any domestic cases since an outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people before it faded early this month.

China has reported 83,611 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the outbreak began. It does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its case count.

Russian authorities have lifted mandatory two-week self-quarantine rules for those arriving as part of easing coronavirus restrictions. It’s one of several steps in an effort to reopen the country after health officials started reporting a slowdown in infections.

Starting Wednesday, both Russian and international travellers will have to either provide coronavirus test results at the border or take a test within three days of arrival in Russia. Self-quarantine will remain mandatory for those who test positive for the virus or whose health deteriorates upon arrival.

The country reported 6,422 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, pushing its confirmed national tally to 746,369, the fourth highest in the world. Officials said 156 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 11,770.

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