Japan's COVID-19 cases, death toll continue rising despite "critical 3-week effort"

Japan on Monday confirmed 1,677 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the nation's cumulative total of people infected to 182,301.

Japan on Monday confirmed 1,677 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the nation's cumulative total of people infected to 182,301, not including those related to a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, with recent rises in positive virus cases and deaths leading medical officials to believe the nation is in the grip of a "third wave" of infections.

Following the government calling for a nationwide concerted effort to comprehensively tackle the virus over a "critical three weeks," the country has entered the third week with no signs of the virus abating.

In fact, far from abating, the novel coronavirus continues to run rampant, according to official weekly statistics.

In the week ending Sunday, Japan confirmed 17,694 new cases and 242 deaths, both of which were record highs.

In addition, the number of new COVID-19 infections per week topped the 10,000-mark for the first time in the seven days to November 15.

The number of new infections increased to about 14,000 by the end of the month, and by the week ending December 6, new cases hit 15,383.

Until the beginning of November, the number of deaths per week stood at about 50, rising to 71 in the week ending November 15 and 93 in the week ending November 22.

In the week ending November 29 there were 138 deaths, surging to 233 deaths in the week to December 6.

While daily figures new infection figures have fluctuated narrowly in a rangebound manner recently, medical officials now believe Japan is in the grip of a "third wave" of new infections.

COVID-19 patients designated as being in a "serious condition" hit a record high of 583 in Japan on Sunday, official figures showed, with the number of new COVID-19 cases across the country totaling 2,334, compared to a record 3,041 new infections reported on Saturday.

These statistics have led to some medical officials now believing Japan is currently in the grip of a "third wave" of new infections.

Tokyo, the hardest hit by the virus among Japan's 47 prefectures with a cumulative total of 47,530 infections, confirmed 305 new cases on Monday.

This was down from 480 new coronavirus infections reported on Sunday, but this figure marked the highest on record for a Sunday.

These figures compare to a record 621 cases reported on Saturday in the city of 14 million people, the highest since the outbreak of the virus here.

On Monday, the western prefecture of Osaka reported 185 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total caseload to 25,114 infections.

Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, saw 114 new cases to total 12,834 infections, while Hokkaido, also hard hit by a recent spike in cases and cluster infections, reported 125 new cases of the virus to bring its cumulative total to 11,460 people infected.

A total of 2,648 people have died in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus, as medical institutions have become overwhelmed with influxes of patients, with the health care system threatening to buckle.

Nurses from Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (SDF) were deployed to Hokkaido and began working on Wednesday as they will do next week in Osaka Prefecture, as confirmed by Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on Friday.

As further evidence of the "third wave" severely straining medical and care facilities in Japan, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said the city government will pay 10 million yen (96,500 US dollars) for each single new bed that hospitals can allocate for COVID-19 patients through the end of the month.

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