Hokkaido confirmed 200 new cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, prefectural government officials said, hitting the 200 threshold for the first time amid a worrying surge in cases in some areas of the country.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has warned of signs of a resurgent spread of the coronavirus in Japan as colder weather drives more people indoors.
While urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka have continued to see high numbers, there have also been clusters of infections in Hokkaido and northeastern parts of Honshu. Experts say this could be due to more people spending time in poorly ventilated rooms as temperatures drop.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on Monday hinted at the possibility of the government excluding Hokkaido from its Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign due to a surge in coronavirus cases in the prefecture.
An expert panel on the coronavirus crisis has proposed that the government consider withdrawing the tourism industry support scheme from prefectures in which the epidemic reaches Stage 3, the second-worst level of the panel’s four-stage evaluation system on the spread of the virus, Kato told a news conference.
“The government wants to respond on the basis of the proposal,” he said. Prefectures with a rapid increase in infections are considered to be in Stage 3.
The Go To Travel campaign, which began in late July, initially excluded trips to and from Tokyo due to a surge in infection cases in the capital. Tokyo was added to the program at the start of October.
In the week through Sunday, 816 people were newly confirmed as positive for the coronavirus in Hokkaido. The weekly total more than doubled from the previous week.
Infections are spreading mainly in the Susukino nightlife district in Sapporo, the prefecture’s capital.
On Saturday, the Hokkaido government raised its own coronavirus alert, and decided to request nightclubs in Susukino to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and bars and restaurants to refrain from serving alcoholic drinks in the same hours.
“We have to win this fight to protect the health and lives of people in Hokkaido,” Gov. Naomichi Suzuki said during a press conference on Saturday.
“We have entered a very tough stage of the epidemic,” Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said. “We aim to curb infections within November.”
In Tokyo, 157 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed on Monday, the metropolitan government said.
The figure for Monday was based on 3,540 tests. The capital’s cumulative tally of cases stood at 32,767, with the number of seriously ill patients at 35.
Of Monday’s total, people in their 20s made up the largest group of new infections, at 33, followed by those in their 50s, at 28, and those in their 40s, at 27.
The cumulative number of cases nationwide stood at 109,376 as of 3 p.m. Monday, up by 6,598 from a week earlier. The margin of increase expanded from the preceding week for the sixth consecutive time, while the country’s cumulative death toll linked to the virus rose by 48 to 1,837.
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