The daily number of novel coronavirus cases confirmed in Japan stood at 2,764 on Monday, falling below 3,000 for the first time in 28 days. However, the figure for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms stood at a record high of 1,017, up by 10 from Sunday.

At least 15,058 people in the 11 prefectures covered by a state of emergency were on waiting lists for a hospital or designated accommodation after testing positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, a Kyodo survey has found, as public health centers have been swamped with a surge in cases.

On Friday, figures confirmed that suicides in Japan rose for the first time in over a decade last year, as the pandemic reversed years of progress in lowering deaths. The same day, officials revealed that a Tokyo woman in her 30s infected with the virus killed herself earlier this month while self-isolating at home. The note she left said she feared that she had passed the virus to her daughter.

A volunteer responds to an incoming call at the Tokyo Befrienders suicide hotline center. | REUTERS
A volunteer responds to an incoming call at the Tokyo Befrienders suicide hotline center. | REUTERS

Japan will hold a vaccination simulation in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Wednesday, but the real thing will have to wait for the results of Japan trials of the Pfizer and Moderna candidates. Even then, one forecaster predicts that Japan is only likely to achieve herd immunity months after the planned Tokyo Olympics, despite having locked more vaccine orders than any other Asian country.

This would be a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has vowed to have enough shots for the populace by the middle of 2021. Japan is particularly vulnerable because its initial inoculation plan is dependent on Pfizer doses, which are at risk of being taken back by U.S. authorities to fight the pandemic there.

Monday’s (and Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 618 (986), Kanagawa 351 (554), Chiba 291 (328), Saitama 251 (285), Osaka 273 (421), Fukuoka 154 (224), Kyoto 91 (115), Aichi 89 (164), Hokkaido 88 (94), Hyogo 80 (178). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker