The number of people infected with seasonal flu in Japan continues to remain dramatically below that of the average year.
The health ministry said about 5,000 designated medical institutions around the country reported 69 influenza cases in the week through January 3. That's the same number as the previous week.
Infection cases were reported in 25 prefectures, down three from the week before.
A nationwide influenza outbreak is defined as a situation in which the weekly average number of patients exceeds one per designated medical institution. The number currently stands at only 0.01.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases said between 10,000 and 100,000 people per week are normally infected with flu around this time of year. The institute said it is the first time in five years that there has not been a nationwide outbreak in January.
Taniguchi Kiyosu, head of clinical research at the National Mie Hospital, said that he's been studying the spread of flu for 20 years but he's never seen a flu season with so few patients.
He said the likely reason is that many people have basic immunity to influenza. He added that preventive measures such as frequent hand washing have become a habit for many people.
Taniguchi said the spread of the coronavirus could be preventing other viruses from infecting people. He said a flu outbreak appears unlikely this season, but called on people to continue anti-infection measures.