• staff report, Jiji

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Tokyo reported 1,010 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as record number of cases were reported in other areas, including Hokkaido, which confirmed a record 712 cases.

With Thursday's total, the capital saw a figure above 900 for the third consecutive day. The seven-day average of new infections in Tokyo came to 933.9, compared to 736.6 a week before.

Among the new cases, those aged 65 or older accounted for 111. The number of COVID-19 patients in Tokyo considered to be seriously ill under the metropolitan government's criteria came to 84, down two from Wednesday.

In Hokkaido, a record 499 cases were reported in Sapporo alone.

The daily infection count in Hokkaido started to increase rapidly at the beginning of May, topping 500 for the first time on Sunday after exceeding 400 the previous day.

On Wednesday, a panel of experts appointed by the health ministry warned that infections were expected to spread further in Hokkaido, while observing that numbers of new cases were on the decline in the western Kansai region. Hokkaido reported 529 new cases on the day.

The central government on Sunday added Hokkaido to the list of areas in the pre-emergency stage, where priority antivirus measures similar to those under a state of emergency can be taken.

Specifically, bars and restaurants in Sapporo has been requested by the Hokkaido government since Wednesday to close by 8 p.m. and not to serve alcohols.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday that the central government will consider whether to issue a state of emergency for Hokkaido "in a flexible manner in cooperation with Hokkaido."

In Osaka Prefecture, 761 new cases and 33 deaths were reported on Thursday.

Aichi Prefecture reported 624 new cases Thursday, after confirming a record 679 cases the previous day. Hyogo Prefecture reported 361 new cases the same day, along with 22 deaths, the second highest number of deaths following 39 reported on May 7.

Nationwide, the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients topped 1,200 for the first time ever to hit 1,214 on the same day, up by 25 from the previous day, according to the health ministry.

According to the health ministry, a total of 19,262 suspected cases of infection with mutated variants of the virus had been found across the country by Tuesday.

Of the total, 4,600 such infections were confirmed in Tokyo, up by 1,811 from a week before, and 3,237 in Osaka, up by 765.

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