• Reuters, staff report, Kyodo, Jiji

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Tokyo will ask the central government to extend a state of emergency by about two weeks for the capital and three neighboring prefectures due to a slowdown in the decline of COVID-19 cases, the Nikkei business daily reported Tuesday.

In January, the government placed 11 of its 47 prefectures under emergency restrictions to run through March 7, but it lifted the curbs early for all but the Tokyo metropolitan area, which also includes Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures.

While new coronavirus cases have fallen significantly from a peak in early January, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said earlier Tuesday that the pace of decline had eased, expressing concern that it may not be enough to lift restrictions.

“We may not make it in time,” she said, referring to the emergency declaration’s March 7 scheduled end.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has set a target for daily new cases to fall to 70% of the number confirmed the previous week.

However, the rate is “close to 80 to 90%, and we have not been catching up to our schedule,” Koike said.

The capital reported 232 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, just a day after recording 121 new infections — the lowest daily case total since early November.

Nationwide the same day, the death toll from COVID-19 rose by 65 to 8,026. It took 15 days for the death toll to hit 8,000 after reaching 7,000 on Feb. 15, compared with 12 days between the 6,000 and 7,000 milestones.

People aged 80 or over accounted for 64.8% of the deaths as of last Wednesday, far higher than 23.4% for those in their 70s and 7.6% for those in their 60s, the health ministry said.

The country confirmed 888 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The number of severely ill patients dropped by 23 to 413.

The coronavirus variant spreading in Britain was also found in seven people in their 20s to 80s in Hyogo Prefecture, the ministry said.

During a session of the Lower House Budget Committee on Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was also circumspect on the prospect of lifting the emergency for the Tokyo area.

“I’d like to look at the situation up until the last moment” before making a decision, he said.

Of Tuesday’s new cases in the capital, 50 were in their 30s, 49 in their 20s and 31 in their 50s. Those age 65 or over accounted for 48 cases.

The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients under the metropolitan government’s criteria fell by seven from a day earlier to 54. Reflecting the latest figures, the cumulative number of cases in the capital is now 112,029.

Tokyo’s daily case total came after 4,067 tests were conducted on Saturday. It usually takes about three days for test results to affect the daily case count.

On Monday, Japan confirmed 698 new cases, the second consecutive day below 1,000, while reporting 51 new virus-linked fatalities. The number of patients with severe symptoms, meanwhile, rose by two from Sunday to 436.

While Tokyo saw just 121 cases after hitting a record 2,500-plus infections in early January, neighboring Chiba Prefecture on Monday reported 127 new infections.

“We need to prepare for a state of emergency being extended,” Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita said.

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