The global Covid-19 death toll has crossed four million, with the worst of the pandemic only just starting to hit some parts of the Asia-Pacific and cases rising again in the United States.
The more infectious Delta virus variant is accelerating outbreaks, and while some nations have started easing restrictions, the World Health Organization warned the world was at a “perilous point”.
With fears growing about the spread of the virus, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Thursday that the capital Tokyo will be under a state of emergency throughout the Olympics.
“The more infectious Delta variant now accounts for around 30 percent of cases,” Japan’s virus response minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had said before the emergency announcement.
The emergency will run until August 22, but it will be far looser than the lockdowns seen in other parts of the world such as Australia.
The government there said Thursday it will rush 300,000 vaccine doses to Sydney as Australia’s largest city — in its third week of lockdown — struggled to bring a Delta outbreak under control.
South Korea, once considered a coronavirus response model, reported nearly 1,300 new infections on Thursday, the highest since the pandemic began.
The surge has forced South Korean authorities to consider imposing the tightest restrictions, under which all public events would be banned.
Elsewhere in Asia, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City has gone into lockdown. The virus threat also forced organisers Thursday to postpone the Southeast Asian Games were due to be held in Vietnam.
But the worst of the Asian outbreaks is in Indonesia, which has become a global hotspot with death rates rising tenfold in a month to more than 1,000 on Wednesday.
Hospitals in the vast archipelago of 270 million have been pushed to the brink by the flood of coronavirus cases.