• Staff report, Jiji

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Japan's tally of severely ill COVID-19 patients reached 2,000, up by 26 from the previous day and hitting a record high for the 15th straight day, the health ministry said Friday.

The figure by far exceeded the 1,413 severe cases at the peak of the fourth wave of infections in the spring of this year.

Tokyo confirmed 4,227 new cases on Friday, down by 1,178 from a week before. The seven-day average of daily new cases in Tokyo came to 4,184.6, compared with 4,721.9 a week earlier. In the capital, the number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, measured under the metropolitan government's standards, rose by 18 to 294. New deaths linked to the virus totaled 18.

Elsewhere, Aichi Prefecture reported a record high 2,347 cases; Osaka Prefecture saw 2,814 cases, its second highest figure on record; and Kanagawa Prefecture confirmed 2,662 cases, topping 2,000 for three days in a row. Saitama Prefecture marked 1,524 cases, Chiba Prefecture 1,489 cases and Hyogo Prefecture 1,061 cases.

On Thursday, new cases totaled 24,976 across Japan, marking the third-highest daily figure. New cases hit record highs in eight of the country's 47 prefectures. Nationwide, 52 new COVID-19 fatalities were confirmed, the first figure above 50 since June 23.

Preliminary data from the health ministry showed Thursday that the number of minors infected with the virus in Japan hit a record high of 30,427 in the week through Wednesday. With the second term about to begin at many elementary, junior high and high schools, officials are aiming to take steps to prevent infections among children.

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