• Staff report, Jiji

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Tokyo reported 501 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a worrying rise from the 440 cases logged last week and the 487 on June 2 and the first time above 500 in nearly two weeks.

The news came after a health ministry advisory board warned the same day of a possible resurgence in Tokyo despite a continuing fall in the number of new infections in many other areas of the country.

The capital’s average daily tally of new cases in the week to Wednesday stood at 384.6, compared with 401.6 a week earlier. The number of severely ill patients under the metropolitan government’s criteria, meanwhile, came to 45, the same as the previous day. The capital also confirmed 12 coronavirus-linked deaths.

While noting the falling number of infections, the advisory panel also said strong concerns remain about new cases possibly bouncing back in Tokyo and other parts of the country amid a rise in the number of people returning to entertainment districts.

New infections remain high in Hokkaido and Okinawa Prefecture, the panel said. On Wednesday, Hokkaido saw 88 cases and 8 deaths, while Okinawa reported 115 cases.

New cases have also stopped falling and are now leveling off in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, the panel added, warning that the pace of decline is slower in the Tokyo metropolitan area than in the Kansai region, which includes Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

Osaka reported 108 cases and 19 deaths linked to the virus, while Hyogo confirmed 34 infections and five deaths Wednesday.

Ten prefectures, including Tokyo, are now under the government’s coronavirus state of emergency, while five others are under quasi-emergency measures. Both designations are currently set to expire on Sunday.

Based on the opinions of experts, the government will soon decide whether to lift the emergency and quasi-emergency measures. For areas under the state of emergency, the government is considering putting quasi-emergency measures into place after the possible lifting of the current status.

The Osaka Prefectural Government, meanwhile, decided Wednesday to demand that almost all areas of the prefecture be put under the quasi-emergency measures after the state of emergency is lifted.

Reflecting the opinions of experts, the prefectural government judged it necessary to use the measures to prevent a resurgence of infections amid the confirmation of highly infectious variant strains of the virus.

“I’m opposed to simply lifting the state of emergency as a rebound in infection needs to be prevented,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said. “It’s important that the quasi-emergency measures be implemented so that anti-infection steps continue to be taken.”

If the central government replaces the state of emergency with the quasi-emergency status for Osaka, the measures should last for at least three weeks to one month to be effective, Yoshimura added.

The neighboring prefectures of Kyoto and Hyogo plan to take same steps as Osaka.

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