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Japan confirmed a record 2,973 daily coronavirus infections on Thursday, further raising concern over the strain on the medical system as the country continues to grapple with a spike in infections.

As the nationwide tally hit a record for the second day in a row, a panel of medical experts advising the health ministry said cases have started to increase in areas that had been free of clusters, including Hiroshima, Kochi and Fukuoka prefectures.

Japan is hoping to conduct an orderly rollout of COVID-19 vaccines starting early next year — probably in March — that will involve 10,500 freezers, a reservation system and the repurposing of nonmedical facilities as vaccination sites. The plan was approved by the expert panel Thursday.

NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

The government is ready and waiting to approve COVID-19 vaccines, a senior official suggested Wednesday, following news that Britain had approved a vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

“If an application for approval (for a COVID-19 vaccine) is filed (in Japan), we’ll approve it after confirming the efficacy and safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said. “We’re waiting for action by (vaccine) developers.”

Coronavirus vaccines developed in Japan are unlikely to be of use until at least 2022, according to industry officials. Only one company in Japan is conducting a trial of a vaccine, though others are at earlier stages of development.

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