Emperor Naruhito thanked medical staff involved in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in his New Year video address broadcast Friday, bringing attention to the burden front-line health care workers are bearing as infections surge in major population centers.

The emperor set a hopeful tone in his first video message since ascending the Chrysanthemum Throne in May, saying he and his wife, Empress Masako, are looking forward to meeting people again once the situation has improved.

The 60-year-old emperor, delivered the address while seated beside the empress, 57, expressing gratitude to those who have been working "day and night" to "save many patients' lives," as well as condolences to people who have lost family and friends to the virus in Japan and across the world.