• KYODO, STAFF REPORT

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Tokyo’s daily COVID-19 cases surged to a record 1,337 on Thursday, the metropolitan government said, as the nationwide tally eclipsed 4,000 for the first time.

The nationwide figure was at 4,515 as of 7 p.m. Thursday, public broadcaster NHK reported, with single-day records set in Fukuoka, Saitama and Chiba prefectures.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has warned that holiday shopping is apparently leading to bigger crowds, and repeated her plea for residents to stay home during the holidays.

“I want to emphasis again that there is no New Year holidays for the coronavirus,” Koike said Thursday. “I urge people to spend quiet holidays staying at home with families.”

The number of infections in Tokyo in December has now exceeded 19,200, nearly double the cases confirmed in November and reflecting the rapid pace of resurgence in the city.

“We are in a very severe and crucial phase,” Koike said at a news conference on a day earlier. “It is no surprise that an explosion of infections could occur at any time.”

Tokyo had logged a record 949 infections on Saturday, a total that was nearly surpassed with 944 cases Wednesday. The total of infections in the capital is now 60,177.

Koike said that if the situation continues to worsen, the metropolitan government “may have no choice but to request” that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declare a state of emergency.

The recent discovery of new strains of the COVID-19 virus — first detected in Britain and South Africa, and then Japan and elsewhere in the world — has warranted “the highest levels of alert and precaution,” the Tokyo governor said.

Calling the year-end and New Year’s holidays a “watershed,” Koike said individual actions will determine the pandemic’s situation next year and urged people to heed precautionary measures.

Specifically, she called on Tokyo residents to stay home, and refrain from visiting their hometowns and eating out with others during the holidays.

On Monday, the government suspended entry to most nonresident foreign nationals through January as several people in Japan had been infected with the new variant.

A further increase in cases could propel a national debate on whether the Olympics and Paralympics, to be held in Tokyo in the summer and already postponed by a year due to the virus, should proceed as planned.

Tokyo’s alert regarding the strains on its medical system has been raised since Dec. 17 to the highest of four levels, the first time since the virus outbreak.

In other parts of Japan, daily cases were also high on New Year’s Eve.

  • Fukuoka Prefecture reported a record 190 cases.
  • Saitama Prefecture reported a record 330 cases.
  • Chiba Prefecture reported a record 252 cases.
  • Hokkaido reported 167 cases.
  • Aichi Prefecture reported 239 cases, of which 126 were in Nagoya.
  • Okinawa Prefecture reported 58 cases.

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