Suga: No fourth wave yet, but vigilance needed

Japan's Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide says the rise in coronavirus cases has not yet reached the level of a nationwide fourth wave, but extra vigilance is required.

Suga made the comment in response to an opposition lawmaker in an Upper House Audit Committee session on Monday.

Koga Yukihito of the Constitutional Democratic Party asked Suga how he views the possibility of a fourth wave of infections.

Koga also asked if it was premature to end the coronavirus state of emergency for Osaka and Hyogo prefectures in late February.

Suga said infections are surging again in the two western prefectures. He also said people traffic has been sharply increasing in Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures, adding to concerns that cases in the area may also shoot up again.

He said the current situation has yet to reach a major nationwide surge that can be called a fourth wave, but a strong sense of vigilance is needed to tackle the issue.

He added that Osaka and Hyogo had sufficiently met the criteria for lifting the state of emergency.

The head of the government's advisory panel on the coronavirus response, Omi Shigeru, pointed to increasing difficulties in taking anti-virus measures.

Omi said it has become harder to get people's cooperation for changing behaviors to contain the virus. He said there has been a notable increase in people traffic.

Omi also noted that another difficulty is a gradual increase in cases of virus variants, including examples in Tokyo.

Omi said the effect of the increase in people traffic after the state of emergency was lifted in the greater Tokyo area will begin to emerge in one to two weeks.

He said the situation in the capital could get closer to the one in Osaka. He said it is time to seriously consider what effective countermeasures can be taken.