Public health experts warned Thursday that coronavirus infections in Tokyo could rebound to levels exceeding that of the previous "third wave" should foot traffic in key downtown areas continue to increase following the lifting of the state of emergency.
At a COVID-19 panel meeting of the Tokyo metropolitan government, Norio Omagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center, said the latest seven-day rolling average of new infections has not fallen below 250 and instead shows signs of an upward reversal.
"With the season of graduation ceremonies and personnel transfers approaching, there is a need to take adequate precautions to prevent the virus' spread at welcome and farewell parties and other events," Omagari said.
The new academic and business year begins in April at most schools and companies in Japan, and so does the government's fiscal year.
He also cited the spread of highly infectious variant strains across Japan as another risk factor.
Masataka Inokuchi, a vice chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, said after the meeting that while the number of hospitalized patients has fallen from its peak, the capital is increasing the number of beds for COVID-19 patients even with beds still available.
"The remaining beds are being fully used for other medical treatments that had been pushed back (due to the virus)," Inokuchi told reporters. "We are certainly not at the stage where the number of patients has fallen to the level that hospitals can relax."
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Thursday confirmed 394 new infections, a day after it logged 420 cases, the highest since Feb. 18.
The rise comes after Japan lifted its state of emergency in the capital and three surrounding prefectures on Monday.
With other areas in Japan -- namely Miyagi, Osaka, Yamagata and Okinawa prefectures -- also witnessing an increase in daily virus cases, fears are rising that a rebound is on the horizon.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has asked residents of the capital to do their part in preventing another surge in cases by avoiding cherry blossom viewing parties despite cherry trees now being in full bloom.