• staff report, Jiji

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Tokyo reported 323 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, after the daily figure topped 400 on Wednesday for the first time since Feb.18, raising concerns over a rebound in new infections.

Thursday’s figure, however, was slightly lower than 335 cases reported a week earlier, putting a halt on the ninth straight day until Wednesday for which the new case number was higher than the week-before levels.

The government was set to officially decide later in the day to end the current state of emergency on Sunday as scheduled.

Of Thursday’s new cases in the capital, 65 were people in their 20s, 48 were in their 30s and 42 were in their 50s. Those age 65 or older totaled 75 cases.

The number of severely ill COVID-19 patients under the metropolitan government’s criteria rose by three from the previous day to 44.

The cumulative number of cases in the capital is now 116,616. The results came after 10,361 tests were conducted Monday. It usually takes about three days for test results to affect the daily case count.

On Wednesday, a health ministry panel of experts offered the view that new coronavirus cases have stopped declining in the Tokyo metropolitan area since early this month, with the number of cases turning slightly up in the capital and Saitama Prefecture.

Ahead of the scheduled lifting of the extended state of emergency, the advisory panel warned that the overall number of newly confirmed infections in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama Prefecture remain high compared with other parts of the country and that coronavirus variants carry a high risk of spreading at a rapid pace.

National Institute of Infectious Diseases head Takaji Wakita, who leads the panel, told a news conference after its meeting that the metropolitan area “has a large number of cases and, therefore, a big impact on other areas.”

“It’s necessary to keep the new cases level as low as possible to prevent a resurgence,” he said.

According to the ministry, the number of new cases per 100,000 people in the week to Tuesday stood at 14.53 in Tokyo, 11.5 in Chiba, 11.48 in Saitama and 7.68 in Kanagawa.

Coming below the Stage 3 coronavirus alert level of 15, those figures met the government’s criteria for removing the state of emergency.

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