An Olympic-Size Headache for Japan’s Suga

An Olympic-Size Headache for Japan’s Suga
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshide at a news conference in Tokyo, May 7, 2021 (AP photo by Hiro Komae).

Speaking at the opening of a new parliamentary session in mid-January, Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide vowed that this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo would be “proof of humanity’s victory against the coronavirus.”

Nearly six months later, Suga’s promise has yet to materialize. Authorities this week extended states of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan’s two largest cities, in light of COVID-19 caseloads that, while down significantly from their May highs, remain elevated. The country’s health care system is under severe strain, and the government’s vaccine rollout is proceeding at a painfully slow pace.

While Japan controlled the spread of the coronavirus better than most Western countries for much of 2020, it has experienced a surge this year. The roughly 513,000 cases it recorded since Jan. 1 make up 68 percent of its cumulative total. Nearly 10,000 people in Japan have died from COVID-19 during the same period, out of some 13,000 overall.

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