• Jiji, staff report, Kyodo

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Japan reported 6,607 new coronavirus infection cases Thursday, marking a daily count above 6,000 for the first time in four days.

The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients rose by 20 from the previous day to a record 920, according to the health ministry.

Miyagi and Chiba prefectures reported 87 and 488 new infection cases, both record highs. The number of new cases stood at 985 in Kanagawa Prefecture, its second-highest daily count, and 341 in Fukuoka Prefecture, its first figure above 300 in five days.

Osaka Prefecture saw 592 cases. The number of deaths linked to the virus grew by 11 to 714 in Osaka, exceeding Tokyo’s 707. The nationwide death toll increased by 66.

The 11 prefectures under the government-declared state of emergency reported 5,266 cases, representing about 80% of the nationwide total.

Tokyo reported 1,502 new cases Thursday, with the number of seriously ill patients remaining at a high level, straining the capital’s medical system.

The number of severe cases came to 135, down six from the previous day, while cases among people age 65 or older, who are likely to develop more serious symptoms, stood at 202.

Thursday’s figures came after 3,849 tests were conducted on Monday, a low test number due to Coming of Age Day. The latest tally brought the cumulative total in the capital to 80,068.

During a coronavirus meeting held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government the same day, members of an expert panel said the recent rise in cases in which infection routes cannot be traced is indicating an “explosive expansion” of infections.

New cases are found each day at an unprecedented speed, the panel warned, urging the metropolitan government to take effective measures immediately.

“It is most important to reduce the number of new cases and seriously ill patients in order to avoid the collapse” of the medical system, they said.

The nationwide cumulative total of confirmed cases topped 300,000 on Wednesday, the day the country expanded a state of emergency originally declared for the Tokyo metropolitan area last week to several more prefectures.

According to a Kyodo News tally, the nationwide cumulative total surpassed 100,000 on Oct. 29 and reached 200,000 nearly two months later on Dec. 21. It only took about three weeks for the cumulative total to hit the 300,000 mark.

In addition to Tokyo, which confirmed a record 2,447 new infections on Jan. 7, other prefectures that have huge urban populations, including Osaka and Aichi, have similarly been struggling amid a sudden rise in numbers since the start of the year.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday declared seven additional prefectures to be under a state of emergency.

Coronavirus deaths across the country surpassed 4,000 as of Jan. 9, with as many as 70 deaths seen per day recently. Those suffering from serious symptoms hit a record 900, up 19 from the previous day.

The surge has been increasing the strain on the country’s medical system, with some hospitals already being forced to turn patients away.

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