The surge in people infected with the coronavirus amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant is causing apprehension at outpatient clinics, generally the first stop for individuals to check if they have the virus.

Doctors say they are stretched almost to breaking point and that seeing more patients has become increasingly difficult. Japan reported a record 62,610 new infections on Tuesday, topping 60,000 for the first time.

The health ministry said Monday young people with low risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms can recuperate at home instead of going to hospitals in regions where medical systems are expected to be strained. The move is intended to ease pressure on health care institutions and avoid the possibility of older people who are at a higher risk of severe illness being left untreated.