• Jiji, Kyodo, staff report

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Tokyo reported 401 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, amid concerns over a rise in the number of seriously ill patients nationwide.

In the capital on Wednesday, the number of such patients jumped by three, to 54, a day after surging by 10. Wednesday’s figure is the highest since May 17.

Of Wednesday’s total, people in their 20s made up the largest group of new infections, at 101, followed by those in their 30s, at 73, and those in their 50s, at 65. Those age 65 or older came to 54. The figure was based on just 1,456 tests. The capital’s cumulative tally of infections stood at 38,598.

Tokyo is planning to ask restaurants there that serve alcohol to shorten their operating hours for about three weeks in response to a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections ahead of the annual year-end party season, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

Japan set a record with 331 patients with serious symptoms on Monday, surpassing the previous high of 328 marked on April 30 at the peak of the nation’s first wave of infections.

A health ministry advisory team Tuesday issued a strong warning over the deadly virus’s spread.

“Depending on regions, we can see a rapid spread of infections,” said the team, chaired by Takaji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

“If the current situation continues, the medical and public health systems will be significantly affected. We may become unable to save lives that would have been saved,” the team continued.

At a meeting the same day, the team put the estimated effective reproduction number, or the average number of people whom a coronavirus carrier infects, for the entire Japan at 1.30 as of Nov. 5. The number was almost unchanged from the estimate of 1.31 as of Nov. 1 presented at a meeting Thursday. A reading of 1.00 or higher indicates that infections are spreading.

As of Nov. 7, the number stood at 1.15 in Hokkaido, 1.67 in Tokyo, 1.40 in Aichi Prefecture and 2.24 in Osaka Prefecture.

New coronavirus infection cases increased by 14,919 during the week through Monday, hitting more than twice the level of two weeks before and the biggest weekly growth.

Areas around Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka prefectures have seen cases in which some restrictions on accepting new surgeries and emergency patients are implemented, according to the team.

Given the difficulty of increasing hospital beds and medical staff quickly, it’s becoming hard to deal with coronavirus carriers and other patients at the same time, the team said.

On Tuesday, the country confirmed 1,228 new cases, with the nationwide death toll rising 19 to 2,028. The total number of daily cases included 216 in Hokkaido, which topped 200 for the seventh consecutive day. The tally saw 165 recorded in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, where three infection clusters, including one at a prefectural high school, were confirmed.

The central government decided the same day to exclude Sapporo and the city of Osaka — which reported 210 cases on Tuesday — from its Go To Travel tourism promotion program for three weeks until Dec. 15.

Osaka also saw the number of seriously ill patients hit 103, topping 100 for the first time. The bed occupancy rate for such patients reached 50%. The prefecture will ask restaurants and bars in Kita and Chuo wards in the city of Osaka, home to the Kita and Minami entertainment districts, to shorten their operating hours between Friday and Dec. 11. It will also urge eating and drinking establishments in the wards to close if they do not take thorough measures against the coronavirus.

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