• JIJI, Staff report, Kyodo

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Japan confirmed 17,832 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the 13th straight day above 10,000, as the number of patients with severe symptoms nationwide hit a record high for the third consecutive day.

Across the country, serious cases grew by 42 from Saturday to 1,563, while 10 new deaths were reported.

Tokyo, meanwhile, reported 4,295 COVID-19 cases, a record high for a Sunday, adding to pressure on the government to expand the current coronavirus state of emergency.

In the capital, the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients hit a record high of 251, rising by six from Saturday, while the metropolitan government reported three deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The seven-day average of new infections in the capital came to 4,263.9, up from 4,037 a week before.

Three prefectures neighboring Tokyo also saw high daily caseloads.

Kanagawa Prefecture logged 2,081 cases, a record high for a Sunday, Saitama Prefecture posted 1,773 cases and Chiba Prefecture saw a record 1,374 infections.

Osaka Prefecture confirmed 1,764 cases, the second highest figure after marking a record high the previous day. Elsewhere, Okinawa Prefecture reported 661 cases, a record high for a Sunday, and Aichi Prefecture confirmed 609 cases. Hyogo Prefecture logged 517 cases and Hokkaido saw 366 cases.

With the delta variant of the virus pushing numbers to record highs that show no signs of abating, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to hold talks with relevant ministers next week on expanding the state of emergency, which has been issued in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Osaka and Okinawa prefectures.

The alarming rise in infections has raised concern about a possible collapse of the country’s medical system a hospital beds in many prefectures are filled.

Infectious disease experts have called for foot traffic in Tokyo to be cut by half from the level in early July, prior to the imposition of the current state of emergency in the capital, through measures such as limiting the number of visitors to underground food sections at department stores and shopping malls.

In the prefectures under the state of emergency, restaurants and bars serving alcohol or offering karaoke are already asked to shut during the period, while those not serving liquor are requested to close at 8 p.m.

Suga has also been calling on residents to refrain from traveling or returning to their hometowns during the summer vacation period and avoid nonessential and nonurgent outings to curb the spread of the virus.

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