Japan's government is expected to widen a virus state of emergency, just 10 weeks before the Tokyo Olympics, as campaigners submitted a petition with more than 350,000 signatures urging the Games be scrapped.
With Tokyo and other areas already under emergency orders until the end of May, three more regions - including northern Hokkaido, which will host the Olympic marathon - are set to join them.
The widening emergency, aimed at combating a fourth wave which is putting Japan's medical system under strain, comes with public opinion firmly opposed to holding the Games this summer, fearing further infections.
Kenji Utsunomiya, a former candidate for Tokyo governor, urged Games organisers to "prioritise life" as he submitted the 351,000-signature petition to city authorities.
"I think the Olympics this time is about whether we prioritise life or a ceremony and event called the Olympics," Utsunomiya said, urging Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to push for cancellation.
The petition is also being sent to the IOC and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as well as local organisers and the national government.
"Holding the Olympics under these circumstances means precious medical resources have to be set aside for the Games," Utsunomiya warned.
Yesterday, a doctors' union warned it was "impossible" to hold the Games safely during the pandemic, but organisers say virus countermeasures will keep the athletes and Japanese public safe.
In an interview with AFP, International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons acknowledged Japanese "anger" over the Games.
But he said strict rules, including daily testing and limited movement for athletes, meant the chance they could infect anyone was "really remote".
"We want to provide this feeling of certainty," Parsons said.
"Because we see that the anger comes from this concept that it's the Japanese population's safety versus the Games. I believe they can coexist."
'Afraid' of the Games
In recent days, organisers have held a string of successful test events, including with international athletes, which they say shows their protocols will work.
World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe, who attended test events in Japan last week, said no major sports event so far has been a "super-spreader".
"The world does need to keep moving," Coe wrote in the Daily Mail.
"At a time when football, rugby, tennis and athletics are all back functioning, and crowds slowly returning, it would seem odd to pull stumps on an Olympic Games where the protocols will be tougher than in any other walk of life and many competitors and their support teams will be arriving having been vaccinated," he added.
In Japan, however, one of the country's most prominent businessmen, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, said he is "afraid" of the Games going ahead.
"I am very much afraid of having the Olympics," he told CNBC.
"Not just Japan, but many countries they're having still a big, tough situation, I don't know how they can support sending athletes."
In recent days several top Japanese sports stars, including tennis Grand Slam-winner Naomi Osaka and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, have expressed reservations about holding the Games during the pandemic.
Utsunomiya said the petition would continue to gather signatures "until the cancellation is announced", and brushed aside concerns about the cost of scrapping the massive event.
"People's lives are more important than money," he said.
India's coronavirus tally surpasses 24 million
India's tally of coronavirus infections climbed past 24 million today, amid reports flowed that the highly transmissible variant first detected in the South Asian nation was spreading across the globe.
The Indian B.1.617 variant has been found in eight nations in the Americas, including Canada and the United States, said Jairo Mendez, an infectious diseases expert with the World Health Organization (WHO).
"These variants have a greater capacity for transmission, but so far we have not found any collateral consequences," Mr Mendez said. "The only worry is that they spread faster."
Among the infected were travellers in Panama and Argentina who had arrived from India or Europe, while in the Caribbean, the variant was found in Aruba, Dutch St Maarten and the French department of Guadeloupe.
It has spread to the Himalayan nation of Nepal and also been detected in Britain and tiny Singapore.
Public Health England said the total number of infections due to the variant had more than doubled in the past week, to1,313 across Britain.
Singapore said it was limiting social gatherings to two people and putting a halt to dining in restaurants.
About half of the nearly 150 passengers booked to return on Australia's first repatriation flight from India were denied boarding because of positive test results, an Australian government official said.
"The human catastrophe that is unfolding in India and Nepal should be a warning to other countries in the region to invest heavily in surge capacity for an emergency response," said Yamini Mishra, of rights group Amnesty International.
"The virus is spreading and transcending borders at a frightening speed and will continue to hit the region's most marginalized populations hardest of all," the group's Asia-Pacific director said in a statement.
Indian health ministry data show 4,000 deaths and 343,144infections over the last 24 hours. It was the third consecutive day of 4,000 deaths, or more, but daily infections have kept below last week's peak of 414,188.
While the tally of infections crossed 24 million, the death toll stood at 262,317, since the pandemic first struck India more than a year ago.
But a lack of testing in many places meant the official count omits many deaths and infections, prompting experts to estimate the real figures could be five to ten times higher.
The situation is particularly bad in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, home to more than 240 million.
Television has broadcast images of families weeping over the dead in rural hospitals or camping in wards to tend the sick.
Bodies have washed up in the Ganges, the river that flows through the state, as crematoriums are overwhelmed and wood for funeral pyres is in short supply.
The second wave of infections, which erupted in February, has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw open inoculations for all adults from 1 May.
Although India is the world's largest vaccine producer, the huge demand has left it low on stocks. By Thursday, it had fully vaccinated just over 38.2 million people, or about 2.8% of a population of about 1.35 billion, government figures show.
More than 2 billion doses of vaccine are likely to be available between August to December this year, top government adviser VK Paul told reporters amid criticism that the government had mishandled the vaccine plan.
Those would include 750 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, as well as 550 million of Covaxin, made by domestic producer Bharat Biotech.
"We are going through a phase of finite supply," Mr Paul said.
"The entire world is going through this. It takes time to come out of this phase."