Japan is still getting to grips with the huge surge in COVID-19 cases it saw on Friday, with newly detected infections in Tokyo alone numbering 1,337, topping the previous capital’s daily record of 949 by about 40%. The national total that day was over 4,515, topping the old record by more than 500 — or 20%.

The national daily count dropped to 3,059 on Saturday, above 3,000 for the fifth straight day but significantly lower than Friday, probably because some local governments suspended the announcements of infection numbers during the holidays. Sunday saw about 100 more cases than the previous day.

On Saturday, the governors of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures called on the central government to declare a nationwide state of emergency, as it did last year, when figures were much lower. But Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his government appear to be skeptical about whether a declaration would effectively curb the spread of the contagion.

Japan considers declaring COVID-19 emergency | REUTERS
Japan considers declaring COVID-19 emergency | REUTERS

New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday in Japan’s calendar, but this year’s festivities were subdued following record highs in new coronavirus cases nationwide and calls from the government to stay home.

Shinto shrines across the country are seeing a drop in the number of people making traditional New Year’s visits, with many shrines opting to not accept visitors through overnight hours, along with other coronavirus countermeasures. Visitor numbers were also down at department stores on their first business days this year — when they are usually packed with bargain hunters — as people avoided crowded places.

Sunday’s (and Saturday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (30 or over): Tokyo 816 (814), Kanagawa 365 (382), Osaka 253 (258), Chiba 225 (236), Saitama 205 (213), Aichi 185 (158), Fukuoka 105 (124), Hyogo 98 (104), Kyoto 89 (83), Hiroshima 72 (76), Tochigi 72 (56), Hokkaido 68 (77), Gifu 58 (36), Ibaraki 52 (20), Shiga 38 (23), Nara 32 (36), Gunma 31 (42), Miyazaki 30 (32), Nagasaki 30 (28). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker