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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

Japan's prime minister announces an extension of a state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September, saying health-care systems remain under severe strain, and that the continuing challenges of fighting the coronavirus had led to his decision not to seek another term.

'We've had trouble securing hospital capacity and that's my regret,' Japan's PM says

People wearing face masks wait for a train as it approaches a station in Tokyo on Thursday — the same day the Japanese prime minister announced the federal government is extending a coronavirus-related state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September. (Hiro Komae/The Associated Press)

The latest:

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday announced an extension of a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September, saying health-care systems remain under severe strain and that the continuing challenges of fighting the virus had led to his decision not to seek another term.

The state of emergency, which was to end on Sunday, was issued first in Okinawa in May and gradually expanded and extended as the country prepared to host the Olympics.

Despite the prolonged emergency, the largely voluntary measures have grown less effective as exhausted Japanese citizens increasingly ignore them. Suga has come under fire for failing to deliver more effective measures and a convincing message to win people's support.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during his news conference as officials announced they were extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September. (Kim Hyung-Hoon/The Associated Press)

Suga said serious COVID-19 cases remain high and are still overwhelming many hospitals. He called on people to continue to work remotely and observe other physical-distancing measures "so that we can return to safe and prosperous daily lives."

The extension will cover a period when Japan's government is in transition. Suga has announced that he will not run in a Sept. 29 race for his party's leadership. His successor in that race will almost certainly become the next prime minister.

Suga said he has devoted himself to fighting the coronavirus since taking office a year ago, when little was known about it. "We've had trouble securing hospital capacity and that's my regret," he said. "It's still not enough."

He also noted that time-consuming Japanese procedures to approve vaccines and new treatments or secure medical staff were also obstacles that need to be addressed for better crisis management.

Vaccination rate increasing

The government, meanwhile, is studying a road map for easing restrictions around November when a large majority of the population is expected to be fully vaccinated, Suga said. The easing of restrictions would allow fully vaccinated people to travel, gather for parties or attend mass events.

Currently, about 49 per cent of the people are fully inoculated and the rate is expected to exceed 60 per cent by the end of September, Economy and Fiscal Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

Suga said about 90 per cent of elderly people have been fully vaccinated, and that has kept as many as 100,000 people from being infected and saved 8,000 lives, according to a health ministry estimate.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 3:25 p.m. ET


What's happening across Canada

WATCH | What qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption? 

What qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption?

1 month ago
5:15
As vaccine mandates become more common, doctors are bombarded with questions about medical exemptions. But with few objective criteria most people won’t qualify for an exemption. 5:15
  • Ontario reports 798 new cases as more students head back to class.
  • British Columbia reports 774 new cases.
     
  • Two new cases reported in Yukon.
WATCH | COVID-19 hospitalizations way up in B.C. 

COVID-19 pushes B.C. hospitalizations up by more than 280 per cent

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Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in B.C. are up by 283 per cent from a month ago. The province says 77.8 per cent of new cases recorded last week were among people not fully vaccinated. 3:59

What's happening around the world

WATCH | Too much talk, too little action on vaccine equity, WHO chief says: 

Too much talk, too little action on vaccine equity: WHO chief

1 month ago
2:06
The World Health Organization's director general says lower income countries cannot be satisfied with vaccine 'leftovers' after richest countries 'have been taken care of.' (Themba Hadebe/Associated Press Photo) 2:06

As of early Thursday evening, more than 223 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood more than 4.6 million.

In Africa, the already thin supply of COVID-19 vaccines has taken another significant hit, with WHO's Africa director saying Thursday that for various reasons, including the rollout of booster shots, "we will get 25 per cent less doses than we were anticipating by the end of the year."

Matshidiso Moeti's comments to reporters came as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just over three per cent of people across the African continent have been fully vaccinated. That coverage drops to around 1.7 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, according to WHO.

African health officials are dismayed by Wednesday's announcement that the global COVAX effort to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries is again cutting its delivery forecast. That revision, Moeti told reporters, is "in part because of the prioritization of bilateral deals over international solidarity."

In the Asia-Pacific region, media reports suggested fully vaccinated residents in Sydney, Australia might be freed from stay-at-home orders by the end of October.

Passengers wearing protective face masks walk through the mostly empty Central Station Thursday during a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney, Australia. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

New Zealand is buying an extra 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Spain as it tries to keep a surge in vaccination rates going during an outbreak of the coronavirus in Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the doses will arrive Friday. 

Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok and other key destinations to foreign tourists next month, officials said on Thursday. The country is aiming to revive its battered travel industry after indications the number of new infections may have peaked.

In Turkey, health minister Fahrettin Koca says the country's first locally developed COVID-19 vaccine is close to seeking approval for emergency use.

Health-care workers arrive at an island village on Wednesday during a COVID-19 vaccination outreach program in Kampung Lok Urai, a remote village on Gaya Island, just off Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. (Annice Lyn/Getty Images)

In the Americas, Microsoft told employees Thursday that it has indefinitely delayed their return to U.S. offices until it's safer to do so.

"Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we've decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our U.S. work sites," Jared Spataro, a corporate vice-president, wrote in a blog post.

Also Thursday, the Los Angeles board of education voted to require students aged 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus if they attend in-person classes in the second-largest school district in the U.S.

The board's vote makes Los Angeles by far the largest of a very small number of districts with a vaccine requirement. Nearby Culver City, Calif., imposed a similar policy last month for its 7,000 students. L.A. has about 630,000 students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters building is seen in Los Angeles on Thursday. (Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 26,854 new cases of COVID-19 and 538 additional deaths. 

In Europe, Germany is extending its COVID-19 emergency aid for struggling companies by three months until the end of this year, the finance and economy ministries said..

The European Medicines Agency expects to decide on whether four more coronavirus vaccines, including ones made by China and Russia, should be recommended for authorization across Europe by the end of the year.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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