Japanese officials are reporting more than 5,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time. The surging numbers are prompting concerns it could overburden the country's health care system.
The increase comes as the central government prepares to declare another state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures... Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. The area now accounts for half of the country's daily infections. A final decision is expected on Thursday.
Experts met at the health ministry to analyze the situation.
They unveiled new data showing the average number of new infections rose 9 percent in the week through Monday, compared to a week earlier.
In Tokyo, the figure was 23 percent. They also discussed health care capacity in the capital region, and how to deal with infections from new variants of the virus.
After the meeting, the chairman of the panel emphasized the importance of immediate action.
Director-General of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases Wakita Takaji said, "People are being urged to refrain from actions that lead to an increase in infections. All levels of government should be united in their message."
The state of emergency declaration will likely be in effect until February 7.
It will give prefectural governors the legal authority to urge residents to cooperate with prevention efforts.
The four governors will ask people to refrain from non-essential outings after 8 p.m. They will also request that bars and restaurants close by that time.
Schools will not be asked to close. But the government plans to step up restraints on the number of spectators allowed at live events. It will also ask companies to encourage remote work.
Officials in Tokyo reported a record 1,591 new cases in the capital on Wednesday. They say 113 people in Tokyo are seriously ill. That figure is also the highest to date.