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As virus cases in Tokyo jump, cover-up doubts emerge

2020-03-30 HKT 17:28
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  • Some people question if a sudden spike after the Olympics was postponed was just a coincidence. Photo: AP
    Some people question if a sudden spike after the Olympics was postponed was just a coincidence. Photo: AP
Before the Olympics were postponed, Japan looked like it had coronavirus infections contained, even as they spread in neighbouring countries.

Now that the games have been pushed to next year, Tokyo's cases are spiking, and the city's governor is requesting that people stay home, even hinting at a possible lockdown.

The sudden rise in the number of virus cases in Tokyo and the government's strong actions immediately after the Olympic postponement have raised questions in parliament and among citizens about whether Japan understated the extent of the outbreak.

They question if enforcement of social distancing measures were delayed while clinging to hopes that the games would start on July 24 as scheduled.

With the Olympics now off, many are voicing suspicion that the numbers are rising because Japan suddenly has no reason to hide them.

"In order to make an impression that the city was taking control of the coronavirus, Tokyo avoided making strict requests and made the number of patients look smaller," former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in a tweet.

"The coronavirus has spread while they waited. (For Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike) it was Olympics first, not Tokyo's residents."

Experts have found a rise of untraceable cases mushrooming in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas – signs of an explosive increase in infections.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday that Japan is now on the brink of a huge jump in cases as it becomes increasingly difficult to trace and keep clusters under control.

There was less of a sense of urgency displayed recently when many people visited parks for cherry blossom viewing, and Abe was only hinting at an Olympic postponement.

But in a phone call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach last Tuesday, Abe agreed to postpone the games until around the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A day later, Koike asked Tokyo residents to stay home weekends until mid-April, saying confirmed cases of the coronavirus had shot up to 41 in a day from 16 earlier in the week.

On Saturday, Tokyo reported 63 new cases, another single-day record. Koike said that infections in Tokyo were on the brink of an explosive increase, and that stronger measures, including a lockdown, could be needed if the spread of the virus doesn't slow.

"Is this just a coincidence?" Maiko Tajima, an opposition lawmaker from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said during a parliamentary session last Wednesday, citing Tokyo's sudden spike.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said there is "absolutely no relationship" between the Olympic postponement and the number of confirmed cases.

A day after Koike's warning, Abe convened a new task force under a recently enacted special law that would allow him to declare a state of emergency in specific areas, including Tokyo. (AP)