• Staff report, Jiji

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Japan shattered the nationwide record for COVID-19 cases in a day on Wednesday, registering 2,812 and exceeding the previous all-time high of 2,684 set on Nov. 28.

The number of seriously ill coronavirus patients nationwide also jumped by 19, to a record 555, as of Wednesday, the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, Hokkaido confirmed 16 deaths linked to the coronavirus — a record daily high for the northernmost prefecture. Including the new deaths in Hokkaido, the country’s cumulative number of fatalities rose by 42 from Tuesday to 2,500.

New infections were reported in 43 of the country’s 47 prefectures and at airport quarantine stations. Among these, several prefectures saw record daily highs, including 245 cases in Aichi, 75 in Kyoto, 72 in Hiroshima, 49 in Gunma and 21 in Oita.

Tokyo, meanwhile, reported 572 new cases — the second highest daily total ever — while the number of serious cases dipped by one from a day earlier to 59.

The capital’s daily figure on Wednesday, which was just shy of the record 584 cases recorded last Saturday, was based on 1,428 tests, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said in a statement.

Among the new cases, people in their 20s made up the highest number at 130, followed by those in their 30s at 116 and those in their 40s at 80. Infections among those 65 or older more than doubled from the previous day, to 103. Wednesday’s figure brought the capital’s cumulative total of novel coronavirus infections to 44,927.

The surge in cases prompted leading public health expert Shigeru Omi on Wednesday to once again urge the central government to remove areas experiencing surges in infections from its Go To Travel tourism subsidy program.

Go To Travel should be suspended in areas in a situation equivalent to Stage 3, the second-worst level on the four-tier scale gauging the degree of the virus’s spread, Omi told an off-session meeting of the Lower House’s health committee.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the government’s top spokesman, told a news conference the same day that no prefecture “is currently regarded as being in a situation equivalent to Stage 3,” suggesting that the government plans to continue the program.

Omi, chairman of the government’s coronavirus panel of experts, has said he believes that the infection situations in Tokyo’s 23 special wards, as well as the city of Osaka are in a situation equivalent to Stage 3.

“I’ve repeatedly suggested that the program should be stopped under the current infection situation,” Omi, also head of the japan Community Health Care Organization, said at the Diet committee meeting. “If we bring the situation to Stage 2 and control infections, and then run the program, I suppose we could gain the understanding of the public,” he said, urging the government to reverse course.

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