• STAFF REPORT, JIJI, KYODO

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Japan set a single-day record for COVID-19 cases on Saturday, passing the 3,000 threshold for the first time ever, NHK reported, as Tokyo also confirmed a record 621 new infections and Osaka registered 429 — a two-week high for the prefecture.

As of 6 p.m., the nationwide count stood at 3,031, the public broadcaster reported.

The third wave of infections has continued to sweep through the country, with Aichi Prefecture reporting 206 new cases, and Saitama seeing a record 199 cases on Saturday, NHK said. Hokkaido reported 189, Hyogo registered 137, Chiba recorded 121 and Okinawa 51.

Daily cases also hit a record high in Nagano, Kochi and Yamagata prefectures, at 32, 27 and 22, respectively.

For Tokyo, the figure beat the previous daily high of 602 set Thursday. The capital’s tally of serious cases increased by one from the previous day to 68. Tokyo’s figure was based on 8,398 tests, the metropolitan government said in a statement.

Among the new cases, people in their 20s made up the highest number at 181, followed by those in their 30s at 119 and those in their 40s at 89. Infections among those 65 or older amounted to 77 cases.

Saturday’s figure brought the capital’s cumulative total of coronavirus infections to 46,745.

Tokyo started to see its number of cases rise sharply in mid-November and is the hardest-hit among the country’s 47 prefectures.

In most areas of the capital, restaurants, bars and karaoke establishments that serve alcohol have been asked to shorten their business hours and close by 10 p.m.

The recent surge in coronavirus cases, in what medical experts call a third wave for Japan, has raised alarm about increasingly stretched health care systems in some areas hit hard by the pandemic. The Self-Defense Forces have dispatched nurses to Asahikawa, Hokkaido, which is facing a shortage of medical staff to treat COVID-19 patients. SDF nurses are also being sent to Osaka and are due to arrive on Tuesday.

A panel of medical experts on Friday urged the central government to halt a subsidy program to spur domestic travel in areas where medical systems are under strain. The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been reluctant to roll back the program as it seeks to balance supporting the economy and fighting the virus.

Yukio Edano, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters in Tokyo the Go To Travel campaign “needs to be suspended as soon as possible” to help stop the spread of the virus.

On Friday, the daily number of new cases nationwide came to 2,800, with six of the nation’s 47 prefectures marking record daily highs. The same day, the country’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll grew by 41 to 2,567.

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