• Staff report, Jiji, Kyodo


Tokyo reported 481 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday as infections continued to climb throughout the country.

The figure outpaced the capital’s previous high for a Monday, of 392 cases, set just last week, and came two days after it logged a record 949 infections in one day.

Among Monday’s total, 50 cases involved people age 65 or older while the number of severely ill patients, based on the city’s standards, came to 81 — one fewer than the previous day, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The number of severely ill patients in Tokyo remains around its highest level since early May.

People in their 20s made up the largest group in Monday’s new cases, at 132, followed by 107 people in their 30s and 85 people in their 40s.

The cumulative number of infections in the capital stood at 57,040.

The rising numbers of new cases in the capital come after 6,444 coronavirus tests were administered Friday. It usually takes around three days for tests to produce results.

On Sunday, the number of newly confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus totaled 2,945 across Japan, falling below 3,000 for the first time in five days. The nation’s coronavirus death toll rose by 40 to 3,287. Severely ill patients increased by five from the previous day to 659, hitting a record high, according to the health ministry.

Japan on Monday suspended new arrivals of nonresident foreign nationals to the country from most of the world through the end of January, as it seeks to prevent the spread of a new, potentially more transmissible variant of the virus.

The government will also require Japanese citizens and foreign residents coming from countries and territories where the new variant has been found to submit negative virus test results within 72 hours of departure from those locations, and undergo tests upon arrival from Wednesday through the end of January.

The new virus strain, first detected in the U.K., has since been confirmed in more than 20 countries as well as in Hong Kong.

Businesspeople and students from 10 Asian nations such as mainland China and South Korea plus Taiwan, with which Japan has put in place a special system to ease travel restrictions, are not affected by the latest measure.

British health officials have said the new strain, first detected in September, could be up to 70% more transmissible, but there was no evidence of it being deadlier or capable of evading immunity induced by vaccines.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that the government had implemented the arrival restrictions to “protect our citizens’ lives and livelihoods, by taking measures in advance” to forestall the spread of the new virus strain.

In Japan, eight people have so far been confirmed as having been infected with the new variant.

They include an airline pilot who returned from London on Dec. 16 and a woman in his family who has no history of visiting the U.K.

On Sunday, the health ministry confirmed a Tokyo woman in her 50s who returned from the U.K. on Dec. 13 had been infected with the new variant. She was said to have been hospitalized since last Tuesday and no one had come into close contact with her.

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