Osaka declares medical 'red alert'

Japan's western prefecture of Osaka has declared a medical "red alert," and reported a record 878 new cases of coronavirus infections on Wednesday. Osaka's daily cases have topped Tokyo's for more than a week.

Osaka Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi said, " We are declaring a medical state of emergency as the medical system is facing a difficult situation."

Hospitals in Osaka are struggling to provide beds after a rapid surge in coronavirus patients. The utilization rate of beds for patients with severe symptoms could surpass 70 percent imminently.

An Osaka prefectural official said, "Beds are being occupied at an unprecedented pace. The virus has now entered a different phase, spreading among people of all ages."

Governor Yoshimura is alarmed by the spread of virus variants. Osaka city is already under stricter anti-infection measures. Authorities will further request all Osaka prefectural residents to refrain from non-essential outings and travel.

Yoshimura also said he will call off next week's Olympic torch relay on public roads in the prefecture.

Neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, which has been under the same strict measures as Osaka, confirmed more than 300 cases -- also a record.

Tokyo reported 555 new cases. That number is the highest since the state of emergency was lifted last month.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko said she'll consider requesting the central government to take further measures in the capital.

Governor Koike said, "We have to acknowledge that we face a difficult situation as Tokyo's average number of infections has topped 400 for a week."

About 3,500 new cases were confirmed nationwide on Wednesday. Japan's daily total topped 3,000 for the first time since the end of January.