• Jiji, Kyodo

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The number of new COVID-19 cases in minors has been increasing in Japan, signaling the spread of infections among elementary, junior high and high school students after the end of the summer break.

Preliminary data released by the health ministry on Thursday showed that the figure was high at 30,298 in the week ending Wednesday, though down from the record of 30,427 reached during the previous week.

The latest weekly number, including 11,354 new cases among those under the age of 10 and 18,944 in those age between 10 and 19, accounted for some 22% of total new cases across the country.

The number of cases in minors is believed to be growing in line with a surge in overall cases amid the spread of the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Public health experts said Wednesday that the number of cases in those age between 10 and 19 is increasing per population of 100,000 and topping that of those in their 30s in some regions.

They said schools need to take precautions to prevent a spread of COVID-19 infections after the end of summer break.

Meanwhile, the government said Thursday that it will accept reservations for coronavirus vaccine shots from 30,000 more people age between 18 and 39 at mass inoculation centers run by the Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo and Osaka.

The government also said the operation period for the centers, opened May 25, will be extended until the end of November after the first extension until Sept. 25, as infections keep increasing among younger generations.

The Tokyo center, which will make use of some 22,000 doses that have not already been reserved for shots by Sept. 25, will start accepting reservations exclusively from people in the designated age group at 6 p.m. on Friday. Those who make reservations Friday can get vaccinated as early as Saturday.

Reservations are expected to begin at the Osaka center, where about 6,500 doses are unreserved, next week after system revamping.

The government is also planning inoculations at the centers for those who missed their second dose in workplace vaccination programs. It is estimated that there are around 15,000 such people in the two cities.

The Tokyo and Osaka centers will be kept capable of administering 10,000 and 5,000 doses per day, respectively. The minimum age for vaccination at the centers may be lowered from 18 because the vaccine used there is made by Moderna Inc. and can be given to people as young as 12 years old, government officials said.

The metropolitan government also announced Thursday that it will start implementing an online lottery system for a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site for people age between 16 and 39 in the capital’s Shibuya district, after thousands swarmed the site in its first days after opening.

People who want to make reservations should apply for the lottery via the Line messaging app between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. a day before they want to get a shot.

Lottery results will be announced at 7 p.m. on the day and some 350 people who win can then register for a slot.

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