• staff report, Jiji, Kyodo

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Tokyo reported 272 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with the daily count staying below 500 for the 15th consecutive day.

Of the people newly found positive, 54 are in their 30s, 53 in their 20s and 47 in their 40s. Those age 65 or over accounted for 56. The number of severely ill coronavirus patients under the metropolitan government’s criteria remained static from a day earlier, at 82. The cumulative number of cases in the capital is now 109,734.

Tokyo’s daily figure came after 7,232 tests were conducted. It usually takes about three days for test results to be reflected in the daily case count.

On Saturday, Japan confirmed 1,234 new cases and 78 new fatalities linked to the virus nationwide. The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients fell by 21 from Friday to 526, the health ministry said.

Taro Kono, minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, said Sunday that inoculations of the elderly against the coronavirus will start in April as planned but at a slower pace. His remarks came after the country received its second shipment of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine the same day.

Citing what he said was a delay until May of a production capacity increase by Pfizer, Taro Kono said supply of the vaccine “will be very limited until April,” adding that the government “will start (vaccinations of older people) little by little and expand it slowly.”

Japan last Wednesday began inoculating an initial group of health workers in the first phase of its vaccination rollout.

For people aged 65 or older, a group of about 36 million, vaccinations will start in April under the schedule set by the health ministry. But Kono, speaking on a TV program, said that the vaccine will only be available in limited areas and among limited age groups during that month.

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