Japan reported on Saturday more than 5,500 new coronavirus cases, the highest in over three months, as Tokyo and other areas prepare to come under a third state of emergency to curb a rapid surge in infections.
Prefectural governors the same day in a proposal asked the central government to provide financial support for businesses including not only the tourism sector, but also primary industries such as farming.
The nationwide tally is the highest since 5,682 logged on Jan. 21, when Tokyo and other areas were under a second state of emergency.
The total includes 876 infections reported in Tokyo, the highest since the COVID-19 emergency was lifted for the capital in late March.
Osaka Prefecture, currently experiencing the worst outbreak in the country, reported 1,097 infections, exceeding 1,000 for the fifth consecutive day.
Meanwhile, neighboring Hyogo Prefecture in west Japan confirmed a record 635 cases.
The country needs stronger countermeasures against the pandemic at a time "highly contagious variants are raging," Kamon Iizumi, the president of the National Governors' Association, said during an online meeting.
Restrictions imposed under the latest state of emergency in prefectures with major cities will have far-reaching economic consequences, the governors said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency Friday in Tokyo and the western Japan prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, asking operators of restaurants serving alcohol, department stores and movie theaters to close temporarily, while sports events are asked to be held without spectators from Sunday through May 11.
Fears are growing that more contagious variants of the coronavirus will exacerbate the burden on the already strained health care system after quasi-state of emergency measures in nearly a dozen prefectures centering on shorter business hours and event attendance caps had a limited impact on slowing new infections.
The governors stressed the need for the government to urge people to refrain from moving across prefectural borders during a string of national holidays starting late this month collectively known as Golden Week.
The state should compensate holidaymakers for their canceled travel plans to substantially reduce the movement of people, the association said in the proposal.
As for coronavirus vaccinations, the association asked the government to clarify details around vaccine distribution to the entire population after Suga unveiled a plan on Friday to complete the inoculation of those aged 65 or older by the end of July.