• Staff report, Jiji

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Tokyo reported 340 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the the pace of growth in the number of infections over the past week decreased by some 8,000 — marking the first decline in 12 weeks.

It was the first time since April 12 that the daily tally had dipped below 400, and the number of cases reported was also fewer than the 419 seen last Monday and the 573 on May 10.

The falling figure came as Osaka Prefecture confirmed 216 cases and 35 coronavirus-linked deaths the same day. The daily tally dropped below 300 for the second day in a row. The prefecture plans to decide Tuesday whether to ask the central government to extend the coronavirus state of emergency it is under that is scheduled to end May 31.

Hard-hit Hokkaido, meanwhile, reported 366 new cases and 15 deaths linked to the virus.

In the capital, the seven-day average for Tokyo’s daily tally of new cases came to 638.1, compared to 784.4 a week earlier.

Under the metropolitan government’s criteria, the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients increased by seven from Sunday to 68. Among Monday’s tally, those age 65 or older accounted for 43 cases.

Ahead of the release of the daily figures, the cumulative number infections confirmed nationwide, including among cruise ship passengers and crew members, stood at 720,246 as of 10 a.m. Monday — up 34,744 from a week before.

The pace of growth over the seven-day period had decreased by some 8,000 from the previous week, marking the first decline in 12 weeks. The country’s COVID-19 death toll rose by 798 to 12,335.

New cases rose most in Tokyo at 4,546, followed by Hokkaido at 4,179, Aichi Prefecture at 3,806, Osaka Prefecture at 2,963 and Fukuoka Prefecture at 2,482. All five prefectures are under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

On a TV program a day earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato referred to the possibility of extending the state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures beyond its May 31 expiration date.

The government formally placed Okinawa Prefecture under the state of emergency on Sunday, and Kato indicated that if the broader measure was extended, the new deadline for the nine prefectures could coincide with the June 20 expiration date for Okinawa.

Also Sunday, Japan saw a record high of 1,304 COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, up by one from the previous day, the health ministry said. The same day the country reported 4,048 new cases nationwide and 62 new deaths linked to the virus.

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