Japan is staring down another critical week of rising COVID-19 cases, as top government officials on Friday deferred a decision to extend or expand temporary curbs on the Go To Travel campaign before they expire this week, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

“Nobody can predict what will happen next week,” said Shigeru Omi, chair of the government’s coronavirus subcommittee. “It’s impossible to decide now what needs to be done, since the situation is inevitably going to change.”

Kicking the can down the road has left the media scrambling to predict which areas will be booted from the discount travel campaign. Hiroshima’s governor said Friday he is considering asking the government to exclude the city of Hiroshima from Go To Travel considering the surge in cases there. Tokyo and Nagoya may also be dropped from the program, local media have reported.

COVID-19 surge hits South Korea and Japan after they had contained the virus | TODAY
COVID-19 surge hits South Korea and Japan after they had contained the virus | TODAY

Japan set a single-day record for COVID-19 cases on Saturday, passing the 3,000 threshold for the first time ever, as Tokyo also confirmed a record 621 new infections and Osaka registered 429 — a two-week high for the prefecture.

The occupancy rate for hospital beds set aside for COVID-19 patients exceeded 50% in three prefectures as of Wednesday, the health ministry said Friday. The rate was the highest in Hyogo at 68.9%. A bed occupancy rate of 50%-plus puts an area at Stage 4 on the four-tier scale for gauging the degree of spread of the virus, indicating an explosive spread of infections.

Sunday’s new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 480, Osaka 308, Kanagawa 231, Aichi 181, Hokkaido 164, Saitama 144, Hyogo 114, Chiba 111, Hiroshima 76, Fukuoka 71, Kyoto 59, Okayama 38, Gifu 37, Shizuoka 34, Kumamoto 29, Miyagi 29, Nara 25, Okinawa 20. Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker