• Staff report, Kyodo, Jiji, REUTERS

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Japan confirmed 23,917 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, shattering its single-day high as 27 of the nation’s 47 prefectures reported record figures amid a continued surge in infections.

Osaka Prefecture reported 2,296 cases, topping 2,000 for the first time and setting a record for the second straight day.

Tokyo, meanwhile, reported it’s second highest daily tally yet — 5,381 cases — up from the 4,377 reported a day earlier. The number of seriously ill patients under the metropolitan government’s criteria declined by one from Tuesday to 275.

The seven-day average of daily new infection cases in the capital was 4,696.6, up from 3,983.6 a week before. The metropolitan government also reported six deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The metropolitan government also said a woman in her 40s, who had been infected with COVID-19, died while recuperating at home with her husband and child who had also contracted the disease, NHK reported.

The metropolitan government has confirmed that seven people have died while recuperating at home in the capital during the fifth wave of infections, the public broadcaster said.

Four other prefectures in the Tokyo area also saw high caseloads. Chiba reported a record 1,692 cases, Kanagawa saw 2,021 infections, Saitama confirmed 1,451 cases and Ibaraki reported 345 infections, its second-highest daily count.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Hyogo Prefecture confirmed 1,088 cases and Aichi Prefecture 1,227 infections, both record highs and topping 1,000 for the first time, while Fukuoka Prefecture posted 1,253 cases, also its most ever.

Elsewhere, Okinawa Prefecture saw 761 cases, a record high, while Hokkaido reported 595 infections.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended a state of emergency in the capital and other regions, while expanding the measure to seven more prefectures, to counter a spike in cases that has been fueled by the infectious delta variant.

The emergency covering nearly 60% of Japan’s population will now run until Sept. 12, beyond its previous expiry date of Aug. 31.

Tokyo was the epicenter of a fifth wave of infections since the pandemic began. More than 80% of its critical care beds are occupied, stoking concern that hospitals nationwide will fill up as the virulent strain spreads.

The emergency measures mean restaurants are being asked to close early and stop serving alcohol. The government is also looking to curb visitors to department stores and other crowded sites as it works to add hospital beds and vaccines.

The government needs to prod individuals to pay closer heed to infection controls, top health adviser Shigeru Omi said on Tuesday, suggesting that laws could be revised to toughen lockdown measures.

Even without legal changes, the government could tame the outbreak by boosting testing and isolating patients at hotels, said infectious disease expert Kenji Shibuya.

“They could have done much more effective measures to control COVID under the current law,” said Shibuya, a former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London.

“The Japanese public has been complying so well till now.”

Other prefectures setting daily record caseloads Wednesday were:

  • Shizuoka, 590
  • Gifu, 338
  • Gunma, 314
  • Okayama, 307
  • Hiroshima, 302
  • Mie, 276
  • Miyagi, 271
  • Shiga, 207
  • Tochigi, 200
  • Saga, 182
  • Nara, 162
  • Oita, 162
  • Nagano, 152
  • Miyazaki, 125
  • Toyama, 121
  • Yamaguchi, 105
  • Yamanashi, 93
  • Ehime, 91
  • Kochi, 64
  • Yamagata, 51
  • Akita, 29

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