Coronavirus infections have increased tenfold nationwide in the month since restrictions on domestic travel were lifted, raising concern the mass movement of people is further spreading the virus.
On June 19, the same day the government lifted its request for people to avoid cross-prefecture travel, Japan reported 58 COVID-19 infections, the majority in Tokyo.
On Saturday — nearly a month later — the nation recorded 662 infections, 290 of them in the capital.
Around a third of the total — 28 percent nationwide and 38 percent in Tokyo — were reported in the past 30 days.
The outbreak seems to be hitting a fever pitch as urban centers continue to see a steady increase in infections. While the outbreak is most severe in Tokyo, other parts of the country are experiencing upticks as well.
Cumulative infections from June 19 to Saturday totaled 690 in Saitama Prefecture, 540 in Kanagawa, 531 in Osaka and 348 in Chiba. Hokkaido, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka and Kagoshima saw more than 100 infections each in the same stretch.
Meanwhile, the government’s massive Go To Travel campaign to rejuvenate tourism is slated to kick off Wednesday amid heavy criticism it will only help spread the contagion.
The capital’s 13.9 million residents were abruptly excluded from the program Thursday when tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba announced the subsidy would not include travel to and from Tokyo, reportedly triggering a wave of travel reservation cancellations.
As of Saturday, Tokyo had logged a total of 9,223 infections and 326 deaths compared with 24,642 infections and 985 deaths nationwide.
While the surge is concerning, more than double — or in some cases quadruple — the number of people are being tested and deaths are a fraction of what they were in April.
Japan has recorded 32 COVID-19 deaths since June 19, only one of which occurred in the capital.
Individuals in their 20s and 30s account for the majority of cases in the capital. Young people are more likely to have mild symptoms or none at all when infected. Not only does this make it difficult for infections to be traced and clusters to be contained, but officials are concerned a surge in asymptomatic patients will hinder hospitals when treating those with severe symptoms.
Typically, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announces new infections roughly three days after testing is conducted. This has been the case since late June, as it was on Saturday, too, when the city reported 290 new infections. City officials said 4,420 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were conducted three days prior.
The capital saw 188 additional cases Sunday, according to NHK, the first time in four days infections have fallen under 200.
“Numbers in recent weeks have been very high,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said during a videoconference Sunday of the National Governors’ Association. “Young people account for most of new infections but, if you look at the age distribution, it’s becoming clear that the virus isn’t just spreading in the city’s nightlife destinations but in homes and among people sharing meals as well.”
Last week, Koike announced the city would raise its risk status to red — the fourth and highest level under its coronavirus monitoring guidelines — heeding assessments by experts that the contagion is still spreading in the capital and its health care system needs further strengthening.
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