• staff report, Kyodo, Reuters


The coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the nation on Friday, with over 1,500 new cases confirmed, media reports said.

As of 8:30 p.m. Friday, An NHK tally put the total at 1,557 — a record high.

Tokyo reported a record high 463 cases as Gov. Yuriko Koike said the capital may need to declare its own state of emergency.

Okinawa Prefecture, which reported a record high 71 cases, took that step on Friday evening, declaring a state of emergency and asking residents to avoid nonessential and nonurgent outings, NHK reported. The prefecture also wants those from other areas to reconsider visiting, the report said.

Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures also reported record highs with 193 and 170 cases, respectively. Osaka Prefecture reported 216 cases, its second-highest figure to date.

Prefectures near Tokyo continued to report high case counts, including Saitama (57), Kanagawa (52) and Chiba (35), the NHK tally showed.

The country’s cumulative total now stands at over 36,400, including some 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February.

In contrast to the responses at the prefecture level, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated the central government’s stance that Japan did not need to reimpose a nationwide state of emergency.

He said the current trend in infections was different from that of the first peak in March and April, when there was a greater number of serious cases and infections among the higher-risk elderly population.

Those under 40 with mild or no symptoms have accounted for up to three-quarters of recent cases, with clusters at bars blamed for much of the upsurge.

Opposition lawmakers, however, have accused the government of sending mixed messages and putting the economy before virus containment with its launch of the Go To Travel campaign.

“Of course we need to make the economy better, but people are still worried about the spread of the virus,” said Ryosuke Takeda, a lawmaker from the Japanese Communist Party.

“The administration has been saying they will make sure to achieve both containment of the coronavirus and economic recovery, but the hasty start of the ‘Go To’ campaign tells me (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe and (Economy Minister Yasutoshi) Nishimura chose the economy over prevention of the virus.”

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