Japan's daily count of new COVID-19 cases hit yet another record of over 70,000 on Wednesday as the more transmissible Omicron variant continues its rapid spread in Tokyo and elsewhere.
The tally of 71,633, rising by nearly 10,000 from Tuesday and setting a record high for the second straight day, was reported before Japan expanded quasi-state of emergency measures to a broad swath of its archipelago, from Hokkaido to the southwestern region of Kyushu.
Tokyo confirmed 14,086 daily coronavirus infections, eclipsing the previous all-time high of 12,813 logged Tuesday, with little indication the spike in infections would slow.
Osaka, which confirmed 9,813 cases, and many other prefectures also reported record daily figures, while the surge puts a strain on the medical sector beginning to struggle with the lack of PCR test kits and stretched human resources.
The quasi-emergency measures, such as asking restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours and stop or limit the serving of alcohol, became applicable in 18 additional prefectures, including Hokkaido, Fukushima, Nagano, Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka, from Thursday to Feb. 20.
With the addition, 34 of the country's 47 prefectures were placed under the stricter anti-virus steps.
Although the number of newly infected people in some foreign countries is on a downtrend, Takaji Wakita, an infectious disease specialist, said at a press conference, "It is not clear at which point Japan's will start to decrease."
A group of experts advising the health ministry on its pandemic response, headed by Wakita, warned that there is a risk of widespread infections, with the elderly in particular becoming seriously ill.
Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures were among 13 areas added to the quasi-emergency last week, with no changes so far to the planned end date of Feb. 13 in those regions.
Of the 18 newly added prefectures, excluding Aomori, Yamagata and Fukushima, the measures will take effect in their entire areas.
The quasi-emergency curbs that have been in place since Jan. 9 in Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures were also extended beyond the initial end date of Jan. 31 to Feb. 20.