• staff report, Jiji, Kyodo

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Tokyo confirmed 970 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the metropolitan government said, as the number of new and serious cases continue to rise throughout the country.

The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients in the capital based on the metropolitan government’s standards rose by 13 to 144 as hospitals continue to face the prospect of being overwhelmed amid the surge in cases.

The figure in the capital came in the wake of a run of three straight days over 2,000 cases last week, including a record high 2,447 on Thursday. It also comes after Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures were put under a new state of emergency on Friday amid the surging daily COVID-19 tallies.

Of the people newly found with the virus in Tokyo, 249 are in their 20s, 184 in their 30s and 138 in their 50s. Those aged 65 or over, who are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, accounted for 149.

The cumulative number of infections in the capital stood at 77,133, according to the metropolitan government.

The metropolitan government did not release how many coronavirus tests were administered on Saturday. It usually takes around three days for tests to produce results.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Friday the metropolitan government aims to lower the daily number of new coronavirus cases in the capital to around 500 by Feb. 7, the final day of the state of emergency covering the greater Tokyo area over the epidemic. The capital previously saw its daily number hover around 500 in mid-December.

Tuesday’s figure came a day after the nationwide daily total of new COVID-19 cases came to 4,875, slipping below 5,000 for the first time in six days. Still, the figure was the highest for any Monday, exceeding the 3,322 marked on Jan. 4. The number of severely ill patients also increased 12 from the previous day to hit a record high of 864 and 48 deaths linked to the virus were reported nationwide, including seven in Osaka Prefecture and five in Hokkaido.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday the government will expand a state of emergency declared over the coronavirus pandemic to Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures. The declaration will be made as early as Wednesday, government sources said, adding that Gifu and Aichi prefectures may also come under the expansion at the same time.

The governors of the three western prefectures had asked the central government to extend the state of emergency, which took effect Friday for Tokyo and some neighboring areas, to their prefectures in response to a resurgence of the virus.

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