• staff report, Kyodo, Jiji

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Japan logged 7,568 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, far exceeding its previous daily record of some 6,000 new cases, set on Wednesday.

In Tokyo, the daily number of newly confirmed cases came to 2,447, rising above the 2,000 mark for the first time.

Daily counts also hit record highs in Chiba Prefecture, at 450, Kanagawa Prefecture, at 679, and Saitama Prefecture, at 460. The surge in cases came as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency over the virus in Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures.

The number of patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms stood at a record high of 796 nationwide, up by 12 from the previous day, while 64 new COVID-19 deaths were confirmed, including 11 in Tokyo, and eight each in Saitama, Aichi and Osaka.

Infections are spreading rapidly across the country, with new cases also hitting a record high in Osaka and two other western prefectures — Hyogo and Kyoto — at 607, 284 and 143, respectively. The three prefectures are considering asking the central government to add them to the list of prefectures covered by the fresh state of emergency.

Other prefectures that saw their daily infection count hit a record high on Thursday were Aichi (431), Fukuoka (388), Miyazaki (105), Ibaraki (90), Gunma (83), Nagano (79), Miyagi (75), Nagasaki (58), Shiga (53), Yamanashi (35), Kagawa (32), Ehime (28) and Wakayama (21).

In Tokyo, the number of severely ill patients also rose to a record 121 on Thursday, up by eight from Wednesday. The cumulative number of infections in the capital stood at 68,790.The latest figure comes after 15,374 tests were conducted on Monday, also a record number. Of the 3,500 hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in the capital, 3,090, or about 90%, were occupied as of Wednesday, Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials said, raising the alarm over the possible collapse of the healthcare system.

As daily case totals are hitting records in other parts of the country, governors of both Osaka and Aichi prefectures have said they may call on the central government to put the prefectures under the state of emergency soon.

On Wednesday, daily coronavirus infections nationwide totaled 6,004 cases, topping 6,000 for the first time since the start of the outbreak last year, a Kyodo News tally showed.

Some health experts have warned it will take longer for the current third wave of infections to come under control, stressing the need of taking stricter steps.

Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said in a news conference Wednesday that the government should look into the possibility of expanding the anticipated emergency declaration nationwide, depending on the level of the further spread of the virus.

Nakagawa also called for all lawmakers to “completely” refrain from dining out at night regardless of the number of attendees.

Shigeru Omi, head of a government subcommittee on the pandemic, said Tuesday it would be an “extremely difficult feat” to improve the situation to the extent that it would be possible to lift the anticipated state of emergency in less than one month.

Suga has seen support ratings plummet amid public dissatisfaction with his COVID-19 response and hopes implementing restrictions “in a limited and focused manner” under the state of emergency will help stem the outbreak while avoiding massive damage to the economy.

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