Japan's daily coronavirus infections topped 20,000 for the second straight day Saturday, adding to pressure on the government to expand the state of emergency that currently covers Tokyo, Osaka and some other prefectures.
The number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms across the country totaled 1,521 as of Friday, up 43 from the previous day and hitting a record high for the second straight day, the health ministry said.
In Tokyo, daily coronavirus cases totaled 5,094 on Saturday, the metropolitan government said, after it reported a record 5,773 new infections Friday.
The capital's seven-day rolling average of infections has risen to 4,231.1 per day, up 8.7 percent from the previous week.
A total of 12 out of the nation's 47 prefectures reported record daily infections, including 2,356 in Kanagawa and 1,828 in Osaka.
With the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly and showing no signs of abating, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to hold talks with relevant ministers next week on expanding the state of emergency, which has been issued in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Osaka and Okinawa prefectures.
The alarming rise in infection cases due to the spread of the virus's highly contagious Delta variant has raised concern about a possible collapse of the country's medical system as patients fill up hospital beds in many prefectures.
Infectious disease experts have called for foot traffic in Tokyo to be cut by half from the level in early July, prior to the imposition of the current state of emergency in the capital, through measures such as limiting the number of visitors to underground food sections at department stores and shopping malls.
In the prefectures under the state of emergency, restaurants and bars serving alcohol or offering karaoke are already asked to shut during the period, while those not serving liquor are requested to close at 8 p.m.
Suga has also been calling on residents to refrain from traveling or returning to their hometowns during the summer vacation period and avoid nonessential and nonurgent outings to curb the spread of the virus.