• Staff report, Jiji, Kyodo

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Japan on Friday confirmed its first cases of a mutated form of COVID-19 in five people who entered the nation from the U.K., health minister Norihisa Tamura said.

The same day, Japan confirmed a record 3,748 new coronavirus cases, the third consecutive day above 3,000.

The people who tested positive with the new strain, which is said to spread more easily and was blamed for a recent spike in infections in the U.K., returned to Japan this month — two at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and and three at Kansai International Airport in Osaka.

Japan on Thursday imposed a temporary ban on new arrivals of foreign nationals from Britain coming for purposes such as business or study, but existing foreign residents and Japanese nationals have still been allowed to enter.

On Saturday, Tokyo reported a record 949 new COVID-19 cases as infections continue to climb throughout the country.

A day earlier, the country reported 42 new deaths from the virus, while there were 644 seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Four prefectures saw their daily case counts hit record highs, with Saitama at 298, Kyoto at 121, Hyogo at 232 and Kumamoto at 56.

On Friday, Tokyo reported 884 new cases, its second-highest daily count, after 888 on Thursday. People in their 20s made up the largest age group of Tokyo’s new cases, at 246. Those aged 65 or older totaled 94.

The number of severely ill patients grew by eight from the previous day to 81, hitting a new high since the Japanese government lifted a coronavirus state of emergency in the capital in late May.

Of Hyogo’s new cases, 71 involved a hospital in Kakogawa, where a cluster of infection has emerged.

Five workers at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture have tested positive for the virus in an apparent cluster.

On Friday evening, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that greater caution will be necessary to prevent further spread over the holiday period.

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