Tokyo will raise its coronavirus alert to the highest level after new infections in the city increased by a record 534 on Thursday.
- Dining out is one of the main concerns for authorities as the virus spreads
- Regions across Japan are registering record numbers
- Tokyo is the country’s biggest concern, with the city hoping to host the Olympics next year
Governor Yuriko Koike called for maximum caution as the end-of-year party season approaches.
The city’s highest alert level, on a four-tier scale, indicates that “infections are spreading” compared with the previous, second-highest level of “infections are starting to spread”.
“The number of coronavirus cases is rising so we are considering what steps will be needed with the view that infections could reach 1,000 cases a day,” Ms Koike said.
Japan recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday — 2,259 new infections, according to broadcaster TBS.
But it is the spread of the virus in the metropolis of Tokyo, which hopes to stage a re-scheduled Olympic Games next year, that caused the most alarm.
With new record tallies across Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the Government was looking to tighten guidelines on eating out.
But authorities stopped short of announcing a state of emergency or any drastic steps to restrict the movement of people, mindful of the economic impact.
“I ask citizens once again to be vigilant about taking basic precautions,” Mr Suga said.
“We ask that people engage in quiet, masked, dining. I will do the same, starting today,” he said.
Ms Koike made similar pleas, outlining new recommendations for dining out as the annual party season approaches.
Those include meeting in small numbers, setting a time limit of about one hour and speaking quietly, she said.
A private survey on Thursday showed nearly 90 per cent of Japanese companies plan to skip end-of-year parties to prevent the spread of COVID-19, underscoring the pain the pandemic is inflicting on an already weak economy.
For medical preparedness — a separate alert category — Tokyo kept its alert at the second-highest level, indicating a need to boost hospital capacity but a notch below critical levels.