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Japan's daily COVID cases hit record, top 150,000

Government says it will not impose restrictions as BA.5 subvariant spreads fast

Pedestrians cross a street on July 20 in Osaka, where new cases in the prefecture rose to a record 21,976.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday topped 150,000, setting a new record high, according to a Kyodo News tally, as the country grapples with its seventh wave of coronavirus infections spurred by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

A record number of daily cases were reported in around 30 of Japan's 47 prefectures, including Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo and Okinawa. Tokyo confirmed 20,401 new cases, the first time the capital has seen cases top 20,000 since early February.

Tokyo last reported an excess of 20,000 cases on Feb. 5, when it reported 21,110 cases. Four deaths were also reported Wednesday, the metropolitan government said.

 As the cases continue to mount, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike vowed to strengthen coordination with hospitals and medical staff, saying, "We will ask recovered patients to leave the hospital as soon as possible" to make room for new patients.    

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno reiterated that the central government will not impose movement restrictions despite a surge in cases across the country.    

"We will do our utmost to support the health care system and prioritize protecting elderly people exposed to a higher risk of severe symptoms," he said.    

Meanwhile, health minister Shigeyuki Goto has said that while no restrictions are necessary at the moment, the government "may resort to effective and powerful measures, including restricting people's movements, if hospital bed occupancy rates are expected to approach their limits."

 In Osaka Prefecture, new cases rose to a record 21,976, eclipsing the previous high of 15,291 logged on Feb. 11.

Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura called on younger people to take COVID-19 booster shots, saying, "Our medical system is coming under strain."    

Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, said the daily tally climbed to a record 11,443, exceeding the 10,000 mark for the first time. The number in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, almost doubled to 13,628 from the previous record of 7,269 set Saturday.    

The surge in cases came as Japan approaches the summer holiday season. More people are expected to travel from late July to August as schools close and company employees take summer vacations, potentially increasing the risk of more widespread infection.    

"It feels like the pandemic never ends," said Fukuko Nakamura, a 70-year-old cleaner in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan. "I can't really talk with my coworkers during work. It's stressful."    

Infection cases in the country had been kept relatively low until mid-June but started to shoot up recently as BA.5 rampaged through the country.    

Shigeru Omi, the government's top COVID-19 adviser, said last week that Japan has entered its seventh wave of infections but also said there is no need to impose restrictions on people's movements for now.

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