• Kyodo, staff report

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Japan’s cumulative total of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 1 million on Friday as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread in many parts of the country.

The development came as many prefectures have witnessed their daily confirmed cases hit record highs in recent days. Japan confirmed its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 15 last year.

Friday saw a record high 15,645 new cases reported across the country, according to a tally by NHK. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported an additional 4,515 cases while Osaka Prefecture logged a record 1,310 infections, amid growing concern about a potential collapse of the medical system in the country due to a resurgence of the virus.

The figure in Tokyo was the second-highest for the capital, which reported a record 5,042 cases Thursday. Tokyo is hosting the Olympics under its fourth state of emergency.

The cumulative nationwide total has doubled in about four months, with highly contagious alpha and delta variants of the virus spreading across the country and replacing the original strain.

In the past few weeks, the coronavirus situation has rapidly worsened in many parts of the country, including the Tokyo metropolitan area, the Kansai region centering on Osaka as well as Okinawa Prefecture.

A state of emergency has been issued in those areas. But the measure, which mostly relies on a cooperative public and not a hard lockdown as in some countries, has had little effect in slowing infections, health experts said.

Infections among younger people are surging. Meanwhile, elderly people are seeing a decrease in those getting severely ill amid progress with the country’s vaccine rollout.

But some municipalities have been forced to restrict accepting reservations for vaccines due to a supply shortfall. New applications by companies and universities for workplace vaccinations have also been suspended.

Among other countries, about 35 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, 31 million in India, and 20 million in Brazil, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The cumulative worldwide total has topped 200 million.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday the COVID-19 situation will be considered when a five-party meeting involving organizers and his government decides whether to hold the Paralympics with spectators.

The central government, the Tokyo government, the organizing committee, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee will meet after the Olympics end on Sunday. The Paralympics are scheduled to begin on Aug. 24, when host city Tokyo will still be under a state of emergency.

The Olympics have been taking place mostly without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Suga said at a news conference in Hiroshima that the number of people going outside has not increased from levels prior to the Olympics that started on July 23.

“I do not hold the view that the Tokyo Olympics are leading to the spread of the virus,” he said.

As the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the country, the government expanded the state of emergency earlier this week and also decided to add prefectures to its quasi-state of emergency.

With the country struggling to contain the virus, Suga reiterated his priority is to fight the virus, adding he will decide what to do regarding the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election and the general election after considering various factors “as a whole.”

The LDP election effectively decides the next prime minister.

Suga’s term as LDP leader expires on Sept. 30, while House of Representatives members’ terms run out on Oct. 21.

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