Japan’s daily coronavirus infections totaled 6,004 cases, far exceeding the previous record of 4,916 set on Tuesday, and just a day ahead of an expected state of emergency declaration for the Tokyo area.

Tokyo and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, all of which are to be covered by the emergency, accounted for nearly half of the nationwide total, with Tokyo (1,591), Saitama (394) and Chiba (311) confirming record cases. Major hubs Osaka, Aichi and Fukuoka also saw new highs.

The occupancy rate for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients topped 50% in eight of 47 prefectures as of Wednesday last week, the health ministry reported Tuesday. A figure of 50% or higher puts an area at Stage 4, the highest level on the nation’s four-tier scale for gauging the degree of the spread of the coronavirus.

Japan may declare COVID-19 emergency in Tokyo and surrounding areas | CNA
Japan may declare COVID-19 emergency in Tokyo and surrounding areas | CNA

Although infections within residences continue to account for the largest portion of traceable new cases in Tokyo, the new state of emergency will largely target food establishments, reports Ryusei Takahashi. Experts are warning that a shift in focus will be needed this time if the nation is to have any hope of stemming the spread.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has cast doubt on the effectiveness of its own emergency plan before it has even been declared. It wants the Diet to approve a bill enabling local governments to dish out penalties for firms that flout coronavirus rules. But as Eric Johnston explains in a Q&A, levying fines on businesses that don’t shut down or cut their opening hours runs political risks for the government.

Wednesday’s (and Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 1,591 (1,278), Kanagawa 591 (622), Osaka 560 (394), Saitama 394 (369), Aichi 364 (273), Fukuoka 316 (187), Chiba 311 (261), Hyogo 248 (222), Tochigi 132 (111), Kyoto 119 (102), Hokkaido 115 (79), Gifu 102 (98), Shizuoka 87 (34), Miyazaki 80 (38), Hiroshima 76 (77), Okinawa 72 (53), Ibaraki 71 (67), Kumamoto 69 (64), Gunma 59 (44), Okayama 59 (51), Miyagi 52 (37), Nagano 50 (44), Shiga 50 (24). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker