Japan's daily COVID-19 cases top 2,000 for 1st time
Japan on Wednesday recorded 2,189 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, renewing a record number of daily infections and exceeding the 2,000-mark for the first time, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities.
Earlier, Japan reported record daily case spikes for three days in a row through Saturday when the number hit 1,737.
The latest rise in coronavirus infections brought the national tally to 123,532, not including those connected to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo earlier in the year.
In Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan's outbreak, a record-high of 493 new cases were reported on Wednesday, exceeding the previous high of 472 logged on August 1, with the capital's cumulative total reaching 35,722, the highest among the country's 47 prefectures.
As the number of new confirmed cases has continued to rise in the capital, the Tokyo metropolitan government is planning to raise its virus alert by one notch to the highest level, according to government sources.
The four-level virus warning system was introduced on July 2, with the highest one meaning "infections are spreading." The second-highest level, currently, means "caution is necessary" against a virus resurgence.
The Tokyo decision to raise the alert level is expected to be announced on Thursday after consultations with public health and infectious disease experts to assess the virus situation in the capital of 14 million.
According to the Tokyo metropolitan government, 42 COVID-19 patients among those hospitalized have developed serious symptoms, the highest number since a nationwide state of emergency over the pandemic was lifted in late May.
Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and clusters recently, as more people are staying indoors in poorly-ventilated rooms with temperature dropping in winter.
Hokkaido reported 233 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with its cumulative total reaching 6,113. The local government has asked residents of its capital Sapporo to stay at home after days of record-high infections in the region.
The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at 1,945, with 12 new fatalities reported Wednesday. The death toll includes 13 from aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The health ministry also said there are currently 276 patients considered severely ill with the use of ventilators or being held in intensive care units.
Despite recent spikes in cases, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said that the government will maintain the "Go To Travel" subsidy campaign to encourage domestic tourism, adding Japan is not in a situation which requires a state-of-emergency declaration again over the pandemic.