Coronavirus: Japan on “maximum alert” after a record number of cases

TOKYO | Japan is on “high alert” after registering a record number of daily coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday (local time), without, however, planning any further restrictive measures immediately.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

More than 2,000 new positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in the country on Wednesday, including nearly 500 in Tokyo, two new records, according to official figures.

Although relatively low compared to other countries, these figures show a sharp increase in the pandemic in the Japanese archipelago, where tests are not carried out on a large scale.

“I consider that we are now on maximum alert,” the Prime Minister told reporters on Thursday morning.

“I ask the Japanese people to systematically take measures such as wearing a mask,” Suga said, deeming it desirable to use them even during conversations at the restaurant.

According to state-owned broadcaster NHK, the Japanese leader called expert meetings Thursday and Friday to address the growing number of infections before the government considers further measures.

The premier said he would support departments that call for businesses to close earlier, and that restrictions like limiting dining to four people should be considered.

The Japanese capital is expected to raise its alert level to its maximum level on Thursday, but that does not automatically imply restrictions and local media deem it unlikely that businesses will be called upon to restrict their opening hours.

The various measures adopted in Japan since the start of the pandemic have never been compulsory, appealing to the responsibility of the population and social pressure, including during the state of emergency in the spring.

The country has increased the number of tests it performs, but it remains relatively low: only 5,000 to 6,000 people are tested daily in the Japanese capital of some 14 million people.

Since January, Japan has recorded a total of 121,000 cases of coronavirus and just over 1,900 deaths.

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