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Japan's daily coronavirus cases surpass 200,000 for 1st time

Chief cabinet secretary tests positive amid new wave of infections

Passengers and passersby wearing protective face masks walk on the concourse, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at Nagoya station in Aichi prefecture.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's daily COVID-19 cases topped 200,000 for the first time, according to a tally of new cases reported Saturday, marking the fourth straight day of a record count during the seventh wave of coronavirus infections.

Tokyo logged 32,698 new cases, exceeding the 30,000 mark for a third straight day. The government said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno tested positive for the virus on the same day.

Record daily cases were reported in a large number of prefectures during the latest surge driven by the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant known as BA.5. They included Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures.

In Tokyo on Saturday, medical staff and elderly care workers also began receiving their fourth COVID-19 vaccinations after the government expanded its eligibility criteria in response to Japan's seventh wave of infections.

Last week's decision to begin the vaccinations was aimed at ensuring enough medical and care workers are available when Japan is seeing record numbers of new cases driven by the BA.5 strain.

Some medical institutions in the capital have been forced to limit the number of emergency patients they accept and scale back surgical procedures they conduct due to staff shortages caused by a spate of COVID infections.

Previously, the fourth dose was only available to people aged 60 and over and those between 18 and 59 with pre-existing conditions who are considered at higher risk of developing severe symptoms when infected with the virus.

A study shows the fourth inoculation has relative efficacy for elderly people but may only provide marginal protection for younger people.

The fourth vaccination is available at three mass vaccination sites, including the Tokyo metropolitan government building, for residents of the capital or people who commute into the city.

A panel of health experts working under the health ministry said Friday fourth shots are effective to some extent in preventing the spread of the subvariant, citing clinical data.

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