Pedestrians wearing face masks are seen on a street in Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 7, 2021. Japan on Wednesday reported 6,001 new daily COVID-19 cases, marking the first time the number has topped the 6,000-mark and booking the highest number of daily infections on record since the outbreak of the pandemic here. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)
TOKYO, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Wednesday reported 6,001 new daily COVID-19 cases, marking the first time the number has topped the 6,000-mark and booking the highest number of daily infections on record since the outbreak of the pandemic here.
The latest surge in nationwide cases far eclipses the previous record of 4,916 new cases logged on Tuesday and comes as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is gearing up to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and three of its neighboring prefectures due to a recent surge in cases.
Tokyo's new daily infections hit a record 1,591 on Wednesday, with other records also set in Saitama and Chiba, confirming a record 394 and 311 cases, respectively.
Kanagawa, meanwhile, the second hardest hit in the Greater Tokyo area reported 591 cases.
All four areas will be covered by the virus declaration set to be made by Suga on Thursday.
Government officials have said that the emergency declaration is expected to be kept in place until Feb. 7.
A state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 last year. It was later expanded to cover the whole country before being lifted in late May.
Japan's central prefecture of Aichi saw its cases rise by 364 on Wednesday as its Governor Hideaki Omura told a press conference that "if this trend continues for a few days" he might ask the central government to expand the virus emergency to cover his prefecture.
Japan's second hardest-hit region of Osaka also reported a record number of infections at 560, along with Fukuoka Prefecture which reported a record 316 new infections.
The record number of cases in numerous prefectures across Japan on Wednesday has underscored health professionals concerns about the strain on the medical system.
Amid rising concerns about the health care system, Suga said he would take into account the opinions of health experts on Thursday before making a final decision on the declaration.
He also said he would be looking to the health experts to "set a direction" regarding the emergency declaration.
Hiroshi Nishiura, a professor at Kyoto University specializing in mathematical modeling for infectious diseases, on Wednesday told a meeting of health experts advising the government it will take two months or so for the daily number of new infections in Tokyo to fall below 100, according to Kyodo News.
Shigeru Omi, head of a government subcommittee on the pandemic, meanwhile, was quoted as saying it would be an "extremely difficult feat to improve the situation to a state where the state of emergency could be lifted in less than one month."
Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said in a separate press conference the government should look into the possibility of expanding the declaration nationwide.
"Depending on how the virus spreads, we may have to consider a nationwide state of emergency," Nakagawa said.
Nakagawa also called for all lawmakers to "completely refrain from dining out at night regardless of the number of attendees."
His remarks came as Suga drew criticism for attending a dinner party with more than four other people, despite his own calls for the public not to attend such events where the virus could be transmitted.
Restaurants that serve alcohol will be asked to close by 8 p.m. from Friday, thereafter, all dining facilities including those which do not serve alcohol will be asked to close at 8 p.m. from Jan. 12 through Jan. 31.
People will also be encouraged to stay and work from home, government sources said and refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors.
"Since the Tokyo metropolitan area and surrounding prefectures are connected, we are coordinating with each other to implement (more) effective measures," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said.
As things stand, there are currently no penalties for people or establishments who fail to comply with new measures set out, although Suga said the government will, by proposing a legal revision this month, try to change this.
The current legislation provides a legal basis for governors to ask residents in their prefectures to stay at home and also enables stronger steps to deal with outbreaks, including the requisition of medical supplies and food, as well as the expropriation of private land for emergency health facilities.
But it does not provide a legal basis for imposing a lockdown with restrictions on the movement of people, or fines for those who leave their homes, as has been seen in numerous countries' lockdowns overseas.
During his New Year's address on Monday, however, Suga said a legal revision aimed at providing benefits for those who comply with anti-virus measures, such as earlier closing times, and penalties for those who do not conform, will be sought in a parliamentary session to be convened later in January.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government's response to the coronavirus, is set to report the situation to parliament on Thursday. Enditem