The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 286 new cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday, yet another all-time high following a weekslong surge of infections that began in late June and last week reached a string of record-breaking days.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters earlier in the day that the capital had conducted more than 4,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, the most the city has ever carried out in a single day. Typically — at least in recent weeks — the metropolitan government receives and reports test results about three days after they were administered.
The previous record was set on July 10 when Tokyo reported 243 cases. The latest surge began last month when the capital reported 55 cases on June 24. Less than two weeks later, it saw 131. And then, last week, it saw four consecutive days in which new infections exceeded 200.
Tuesday and Wednesday saw Tokyo report 143 and 165 infections, respectively.
On Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced it would heed expert opinion and raise the alert status of its COVID-19 monitoring criteria to red — the fourth and highest level — while a parallel system gauging the preparedness of the city’s health care system to accept infected patients was kept at orange, one level shy of red.
On Thursday, the metropolitan government began transporting mild and asymptomatic patients to a vacated facility — a hotel with 175 rooms in the Ikebukuro area of Toshima Ward — to isolate them for two weeks. Another hotel will begin taking in patients next week.
Over the past week, intermittent upticks in new cases have surfaced sporadically in the greater metropolitan area surrounding Tokyo — encompassing Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures — as well as in Osaka Prefecture and within U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture.
In Osaka, 66 new cases were reported Thursday, the highest since the nationwide state of emergency was lifted in late May.
“While there’s no change in the trend of infections among younger people in the nightlife districts, the number of infections among the older generations is increasing and we’re seeing more cases outside the Osaka city limits,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
In Kanagawa, 47 cases were reported, also the highest since the state of emergency was lifted, according to media reports.
The latest surge in the capital, however, is different when compared to the first outbreak, which is said to have peaked in early April when a high number of elderly patients with serious conditions nearly overwhelmed hospitals and risked the collapse of the capital’s health care system.
Young people in their 20s and 30s, who are more likely to be asymptomatic or experience only mild symptoms, account for the majority of infections tallied in Tokyo over the past three weeks. Many cases have been traced back to host and hostess bars, maid cafes and other nightlife destinations in the Kabukicho and Ikebukuro districts of Shinjuku and Toshima wards, respectively.
A large cluster was also reported among performers and guests at a theater in Shinjuku Ward this week, prompting Tokyo health officials to call for more than 800 theatergoers to get tested for the virus.
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