• staff report, jiji


Japan confirmed 961 new COVID-19 cases Monday, with the daily count falling below 1,000 for the first time since Nov. 16, when 950 cases were detected.

Although the total number of infections have been falling amid an extended coronavirus state of emergency declaration, the nation’s medical system remains in a precarious state, according to government officials and experts.

The country’s cumulative deaths linked to the coronavirus blamed for the COVID-19 disease rose by 73 from Sunday to 7,056, topping the 7,000 mark 12 days after hitting 6,000. The figure reached the 6,000 threshold on Feb. 3, 11 days after surpassing 5,000. The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients fell by 10 to 658 as of Monday.

Tokyo, meanwhile, confirmed 266 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, with severe cases entering double digits for the first time since Jan. 2 amid the state of emergency.

The number of serious cases based on the metropolitan government’s standards fell by six from the previous day to 97.

Monday’s caseload, down by more than 100 from the day before, stayed below 500 for a ninth day in a row and marked 18 consecutive days under 1,000.

Of the new cases in Tokyo on Monday, 51 were from people in their 20s, 38 in their 40s and 37 in their 50s. People age 65 or older accounted for 53 cases. The cumulative number of cases in the capital is now 106,771.

Tokyo’s daily figure comes after 6,823 tests were conducted Friday. It usually takes around three days for tests to produce results.

The health ministry also said that a coronavirus variant that is spreading in Britain was found in a total of 13 people in Fukushima, Saitama and Shiga prefectures.

Earlier Monday, the weekly number of newly confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Japan were confirmed to have dropped for the fifth consecutive week.

Also Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made clear again that vaccinations for the virus will start for medical workers Wednesday.

“We’ll make utmost efforts to deliver safe and effective vaccines to the people as early as possible,” Suga told a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee.

On Sunday, U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine became the first to win health ministry approval for use in Japan.

Regarding a decrease in new infection cases under the country’s second COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other areas, Suga said the effects of the countermeasures are “clearly visible.”

Noting that cluster infections are increasing at facilities for the elderly, Suga pledged to implement the measures thoroughly to ensure that new cases decline further, so that the emergency can be lifted.

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