• Jiji, Kyodo, staff report


The Okinawa Prefectural Government confirmed 623 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, more than 2½ times the figure logged the previous day, prompting the governor to consider stronger measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The news came on the same day daily coronavirus cases in Japan surpassed 2,000 for the first time in over three months

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters he intends to ask the central government Thursday to place the prefecture under COVID-19 pre-emergency status.

“The situation won’t end there,” Tamaki said, indicating the prefecture is in need of a state of emergency, but remained cautious about requesting it at this stage, taking the economic impact into account.

It is the first time for the daily tally in the prefecture to top 600 since Aug. 28 of last year.

The prefectural government believes infections are spreading quickly as more people tested positive in U.S. bases located in Okinawa since December, leading to community transmissions of the omicron variant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said earlier Wednesday the government will consider it without delay if the prefectural government makes the request.

Tamaki said Tuesday that he had held talks on the matter with Matsuno.

The governor stressed that the prefecture is now believed to have “already entered the sixth wave” of infections. He said it shouldn’t be the kind of situation in which activating pre-emergency measures in Okinawa could take as long as a week, considering that infections were spreading at an “unusual” speed.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 390 cases Wednesday, more than double the 151 posted a day before and up from 76 marked a week earlier. It is the first time since Sept. 26 for the daily tally to exceed 300.

The Osaka Prefectural Government said it confirmed 244 cases Wednesday, topping 200 for the first time since Oct. 6.

In Okinawa, daily COVID-19 cases stood below 10 until Dec. 20.

But new cases began soaring since a worker at a U.S. military base in the prefecture was found to be infected with the omicron variant later that month. The daily count reached 130 on Monday and 225 on Tuesday, with infections spreading mainly among people in their 20s to 40s.

The occupancy rate for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients had risen to stand at around 20% as of Tuesday.

Matsuno said the same day that he had urged the governor by telephone to promote COVID-19 vaccinations in Okinawa as the prefecture’s vaccination rate is lower than the national average.

“We want (the prefecture) to proceed with inoculations for unvaccinated people and give early booster shots to elderly people and medical workers,” Matsuno said.

On Tuesday, in addition to the cases confirmed by the prefectural government, 164 new cases were reported from the U.S. forces in Okinawa. COVID-19 cases found at U.S. military facilities in the prefecture since Dec. 15 thus totaled 996.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military’s Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture announced Wednesday that 182 people in the base tested positive, a record high daily tally, bringing the total found at the base to 671.

Daily COVID-19 cases in Japan topped 1,000 Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 6 last year, when the tally hit 1,125.

Tuesday’s count stood at 1,268, including infections found at airport quarantine.

One coronavirus fatality was reported, while the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients rose by two from Monday to 54.

The daily number of cases found at airport quarantine in Japan hit a record high of 117.

According to health ministry data and information from other sources, the total number of infections with the omicron variant found so far in Japan has exceeded 1,000.

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