Japan urges ‘highest level of vigilance’ as Omicron subvariant drives record Covid surge


Japan’s government has urged people to exercise the “highest level of vigilance” after the country reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases in a new wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant.

More than 186,000 cases were recorded nationwide on Thursday, while Tokyo easily beat its existing daily record with 31,878 cases.

The capital, along with Osaka and Fukuoka, were among 30 of the country’s 47 prefectures to report record highs this week.

In addition, groups of up to four diners would be permitted to eat at restaurants for a maximum of only two hours, while older people and those with underlying health conditions would be advised to meet only family members with whom they lived, NHK said.

Okinawa has a hospital bed occupancy rate of about 60%, prompting the local medical association to warn that the islands’ health infrastructure was on the verge of collapse and to ask people not to make emergency visits if they have light, cold-like symptoms.

The central government said there were no immediate plans to return to restrictions seen during previous waves of the virus, but urged people to exercise caution amid fears that further surges could raise pressure on health services.

The health minister, Shigeyuki Goto, said the sharp rise in infections “could increase the number of patients with severe symptoms”, adding that he was particularly concerned about possible outbreaks among vulnerable people in hospitals and nursing homes.

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