• Staff report, Jiji, Kyodo


Tokyo confirmed 573 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, falling below 1,000 for the first time in two days amid growing fears over the spread of more virulent variants of the coronavirus.

Case numbers on Mondays are usually lower than other days since some testing sites are closed over the weekend. The figure also came after the conclusion of the Golden Week holiday period.

As the variants continue to wreak havoc across the country, the health ministry said earlier Monday that the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition nationwide had hit a record 1,152.

Of Monday’s total cases in Tokyo, people age 65 or over, who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, accounted for 68 cases, while the number of patients in serious condition under the metropolitan government’s criteria came to 78, up by five from Sunday.

The total of new infections recorded in Tokyo in the week through Monday averaged 779.1, compared to 873.6 a week earlier.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the total number of cases reported nationwide, including among foreign cruise ship passengers and crew members, reached 642,492, up 36,889 from a week before.

The weekly growth accelerated for the 10th straight week and the country’s total death toll linked to the virus rose 524 to 10,924.

On Sunday, the total number of cases nationwide topped 6,000 for the third straight day.

The country is now facing a fourth wave of infections, with daily coronavirus cases topping 7,000 on Saturday for the first time since mid-January.

Tokyo reported 1,032 new cases on Sunday, after confirming 1,121 the day before — the highest daily level since Jan. 22, when the second state of emergency was still in place.

On Friday, the government decided to extend the current state of emergency covering Tokyo and the greater Osaka area to May 31 and expand it to Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters that she wants to “effectively contain infections” during the extended period of the emergency.

On Sunday, record numbers of infections were reported again in wide areas of the country, with Fukuoka Prefecture seeing 529 cases, the northern main island of Hokkaido logging 506, Hiroshima Prefecture reporting 195, and Fukushima Prefecture confirming 74.

The nation also reported 60 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

With Japan’s vaccine rollout lagging far behind other countries, the government plans to set up large-scale inoculation centers in Tokyo and Osaka to be staffed by Self-Defense Forces doctors and nurses.

An official said the government is planning to administer up to 5,000 shots a day at the center in Osaka Prefecture, where another 874 coronavirus infections were reported on Sunday.

The official, who declined to be named, also said the Tokyo center will be able to administer 10,000 shots a day from its opening on May 24.

Under the emergency, tougher measures have been taken since late April, such as asking dining establishments to stop serving alcohol, big shopping facilities to close and big events to be held without spectators.

On Friday, the government said some restrictions could be eased, including allowing department stores to open until 8 p.m. and organizers to stage concerts with a limited number of people.

However, Koike and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said they will continue to ask large commercial facilities to remain closed.

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