Prime Minister Abe Shinzo spoke to reporters last Friday about the recent surge in cases, saying the government intends to increase testing at hospitals and nursing care facilities, while promoting measures to minimize risk of infection for the elderly.
“The number of new cases has been rising and I’ve been closely monitoring the situation,” Abe said. “However, as infectious diseases experts have explained, the current situation is different from the spring. I don’t think it calls for the declaration of a state of emergency.”
Tokyo has become a hotbed for the virus. The capital has recorded 11,214 cases, accounting for more than a third of the nation’s total. After a string of days in which new cases were in the triple digits, the Tokyo government put the city on the highest possible coronavirus alert level on July 15.
The number of patients hospitalized with the virus is also on the rise in the capital. As of Sunday, 1,165 people are being treated at hospitals throughout Tokyo. This is more than four times the figures on July 1. Tokyo health officials say they have secured 2,400 beds for coronavirus patients so far.
Cases are also mounting in other parts of Japan. A total of 835 new cases were reported in 34 prefectures on Sunday, and a series of bleak milestones were reached across the country.
Fukuoka Prefecture reported 90 new infections, its highest ever daily total. Osaka Prefecture reported 141 cases, its fifth consecutive day of more than 100 infections. Aichi Prefecture recorded 80 cases, marking the sixth straight day of more than 50 cases.
The coronavirus has even made its way to remote corners of the country. An outbreak has been confirmed on Yoron Island, a popular tourist destination in Kagoshima Prefecture, with 34 cases so far.
Patients and a nurse have tested positive at the Yoron Tokushukai Hospital, the island’s sole general hospital. It is equipped with only four beds designated for infectious disease patients and has been forced to stop accepting outpatients, except in cases of emergency, for the time being.
The mayor of the town, Yama Motomune, is asking people not to visit.
“People on the island would normally welcome visitors warmly,” he says. ”But these are not normal times and I’d be grateful if people refrained from visiting the island for now.”
Japan has been struggling to maintain a balance between resuming economic activity and preventing infections. The government launched its “Go To Travel” campaign to promote domestic tourism on July 22 but excluded Tokyo after an uptick in cases.
The government says it has decided against easing attendance limits at public events. The current cap of 5,000 was set to be raised to half of venue capacity but Prime Minister Abe says that in view of the recent surge in infections, the current limit will be kept in place until the end of August.
“The major causes are the so-called three Cs: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings, like restaurants, bars, and night clubs,” Nishimura Yasutoshi, the minister in charge of the coronavirus response, said at a press conference on Saturday. He urged people to stay away from such settings, and to avoid loud conversations and poorly ventilated spaces.