• STAFF REPORT, JIJI, Kyodo

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Osaka Prefecture reported a record 918 new coronavirus cases on Saturday amid growing signs of a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by new variants.

The daily figures in Osaka, which had a quasi-emergency measure imposed earlier this week, have topped those of Tokyo for 12 consecutive days.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases estimated that new variants were responsible for about 70% of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures earlier this month, which likely pushed up a recent surge in infections. That compared with about 10% in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, but the government is worried that there could be a spike in the greater Tokyo area as well.

Tokyo reported 570 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, exceeding 500 for a fourth straight day, as the government was set to put the capital plus Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures under coronavirus quasi-emergency measures starting Monday.

The figure was significantly more than the last two Saturdays, which saw 446 on April 3 and 430 on March 27. It was the highest number since Feb. 6.

The average number of daily new cases in Tokyo jumped to 458.6 in the week through Saturday from a total of 383.7 as of April 3.

Of Saturday’s new cases, 162 were confirmed among people in their 20s, 117 among those in their 30s and 96 among those in their 40s. Those age 65 or older accounted for 48 cases.

The number of infected people with severe symptoms under the metropolitan government’s criteria fell by six from the previous day to 37.

Saturday also saw large numbers of people flood transport hubs in major population centers despite the government designating Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures as requiring more stringent coronavirus countermeasures just a day earlier.

Hyogo Prefecture, which is also under a one-month quasi-emergency and is calling on restaurants in select cities to close at 8 p.m., reported a record 351 new cases on Saturday.

Okinawa Prefecture, which along with Kyoto and Tokyo will be placed under the pre-emergency measures from Monday, logged 146 new cases.

On Friday the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in Japan exceeded 500,000.

Japan confirmed 3,454 new cases, sending the cumulative total to 501,149. It took only about two months for the total to increase by 100,000.

Friday’s count matched that of Wednesday, which was highest since the country’s second coronavirus state of emergency was entirely lifted last month. It also topped 3,000 for the third straight day.

The death toll linked to the virus rose by 27 from the previous day to 9,378.

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