• Kyodo

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Despite a declining trend in Hokkaido, Japan has yet to reach its peak for COVID-19 infections, with the number of infected people still rising significantly in Aichi and Hyogo prefectures, a Kyodo News study has showed.

The study, released Tuesday, is based on data from about 680 confirmed cases whose dates of onset of the disease were available among cases reported by local governments to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as of Monday.

In Hokkaido, where 152 cases — the highest number of domestic infections — and six deaths have been reported, the number of new cases has been decreasing since Gov. Naomichi Suzuki declared a state of emergency on Feb. 28.

Cases of COVID-19 surged in mid-February on the island, logging 10 patients per day on Feb. 18 and 21, before starting to show a declining trend.

A government panel of health experts warned on Feb. 24 that the next week or two would be “critical” in determining whether infections would rapidly spread in the country or start to fade.

The number of COVID-19 patients has increased in prefectures such as Aichi and Hyogo, where clusters of people infected with the pneumonia-causing virus were reported.

In Aichi, the prefecture with the second-highest number of domestic infections, a cluster emerged in connection with a day care center for the elderly, with 11 cases recorded on both March 7 and 9.

Nationwide, the onset of cases remained at a rate of 20 to 30 per day between late February and early March, suggesting the peak of the epidemic has yet to be reached.

Nationwide, the onset of new cases — which can be more than a week before a case is confirmed and reported to authorities — has been on a declining trend since March 10. But the trend could still turn upward this month, because many cases have presumably not yet been reported to local governments.

Similarly, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Tuesday it had confirmed an additional 12 cases, taking the number of cases in the capital to 102 on the day. The announcement marked the highest number of new reported cases in one day in Tokyo.

The study also revealed that 20 or more people had tested positive for the virus this month after returning from trips abroad.

The infection of an Aichi man in his 50s was confirmed after he returned from France. Others who went on a Nile River cruise in Egypt were also infected.

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