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Tokyo’s daily COVID-19 cases surged to a record 1,337 Thursday — 40% above the previous record high of 949 — as the nationwide tally eclipsed 4,000 for the first time, topping 4,500 and exceeding the Japan-wide record by 20%. Single-day records were also set in Fukuoka, Saitama and Chiba prefectures.

As reports of more contagious strains of the virus continue to emerge daily, at least 73 countries are tightening their border controls for travelers from Japan, where 15 cases of the new variants have been detected. A total of 140 nations have imposed extra measures restricting movement, such as mandatory quarantines, which affect travelers from Japan, writes Magdalena Osumi.

Visitors flock to a shopping street in the Asakusa district of Tokyo on Sunday. | KYODO
Visitors flock to a shopping street in the Asakusa district of Tokyo on Sunday. | KYODO

How did Japan get here and how can it tamp down the current near-exponential surge? The government response to the pandemic has been haphazard, slow and largely reactive rather than proactive, writes the JT Editorial Board.

To ensure a better, safer 2021, the government needs to prioritise public health over the economy, while the public must overcome coronavirus fatigue and show more self-discipline in doing its bit to limit the spread, argues the board.

Thursday’s (and Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (30 or over): Tokyo 1,337 (944), Kanagawa 588 (432), Saitama 330 (244), Osaka 313 (307), Chiba 252 (218), Aichi 239 (294), Hyogo 193 (188), Fukuoka 190 (189), Hokkaido 167 (133), Kyoto 109 (96), Hiroshima 87 (84), Gifu 83 (67), Tochigi 73 (56), Okinawa 58 (47), Nara 38 (30), Gunma 37 (56), Kumamoto 32 (44). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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