A record 7,688 people in Japan died from COVID-19 in December, exceeding the previous monthly high of 7,329 logged in August during the previous wave, a tally has shown.

The death toll has increased sharply since November with the onset of the eighth wave. The daily count hit a record 438 on Tuesday and remained above 400 the following day, though it has since fallen below 200 with fewer people being tested over the year-end holidays, according to the Kyodo News tally.

While the severity rate has dropped with the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, the variant's increased transmissibility means that infections have risen by an order of magnitude.

As deaths tend to lag behind an increase in infections, there are concerns that both numbers will surge as travelers flood public transportation during the New Year's holidays.