Japan shatters daily coronavirus record on New Year’s Eve

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Dec. 31 (UPI) — Japan broke a daily record with more than 4,500 new COVID-19 cases on New Year’s Eve, as authorities consider a state of emergency.

New cases on Thursday totaled 4,515 by 6:30 p.m., local time, shattering a previous record of 3,880 daily cases on Saturday, NHK reported. Total cases in Japan have surpassed 231,200, and deaths due to COVID-19 complications are at 3,492, according to reports.

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A significant portion of the new cases was reported in Tokyo, where 1,300 more people were confirmed for the coronavirus Thursday. Japan’s winter wave of COVID-19 began in November, and concerns are growing that the worst is yet to come.

Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura had said via Twitter the country could reintroduce a nationwide state of emergency, which went into effect in April, but was lifted in May.

“If the spread of infections continues like this, a declaration of an emergency could come under consideration, to protect the lives of the people,” Nishimura tweeted Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been less forthcoming about an emergency declaration. Suga told reporters on Thursday the government is taking the rising number of COVID-19 cases “very seriously,” but skipped mention of any potential emergency orders, which would lead to shutdowns that could hurt the retail economy.

Other Japanese politicians are showing support for an emergency declaration.

According to Kyodo News and the Japan Times, Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, said Thursday her city “may have no choice but to request” an emergency order from Suga.

“We are in a very severe and crucial phase,” Koike had said Tuesday. “It is no surprise that an explosion of infections could occur at any time.”

The Tokyo governor also had urged people to stay home and avoid crowded areas.

Japan recently suspended a state-subsidized travel campaign from December to January, after promoting domestic tourism in an attempt to stimulate the economy.