Tokyo recorded 55 new cases of novel coronavirus infection on Wednesday, an alarmingly high number following a brief stretch in which daily figures fluctuated following the lifting of the state of emergency declaration in late May and subsequent reopening of the capital.
Wednesday was the first day in which new cases had exceeded 50 since May 5. Gov. Yuriko Koike said a number of the new infections reported on the day could be traced back to nightlife destinations as well as contact among employees working in the same location.
The number of new cases had hit a lull in Tokyo after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for all of the nation's prefectures, including the capital. Concerns increased last week when Tokyo reported 47 new infections on June 14 and 48 cases the following day.
More recently, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had reported 39 infections on Saturday, 35 on Sunday, 29 on Monday and 31 on Tuesday.
Tokyo entered phase two of its three-part reopening plan about a week after the declaration was lifted. A day later, Gov. Yuriko Koike sounded the alarm using the so-called Tokyo Alert system after the capital reported 34 additional infections. The system warns residents to practice caution by means of national television broadcasts and illuminating in red the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku and the Rainbow Bridge that spans Tokyo Bay.
Experts have warned, though, that reopening society prematurely or abruptly could invite a second wave of novel coronavirus infections. Critics have also said the criteria based on which the governor activates the Tokyo Alert system is vague at best, and that the impact and reach of the warning system is limited.
On June 12, the capital entered the third and final stage of its strategy to lift virus-related controls.
When Koike announced the plan on May 22, she said the metropolitan government would gradually lift virus countermeasures and voluntary business closure requests by monitoring seven criteria: new and untraceable cases, whether they have risen or fallen in comparison to the previous week, the number of hospitalized patients including those with severe symptoms, the infection rate among those who are given polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and the amount of calls and consultations received by coronavirus hotlines.
Koike said the city would reopen as long as the weekly average of daily cases remained below 20, and if untraceable cases accounted for less than half of those infections and had decreased in comparison to the week prior.
The governor said the capital would consider reissuing business closure requests if new cases exceeded 50, more than half were untraceable and new cases had doubled in the span of a week.