Japan sees record 27,000 Covid-19 cases as government mulls curbs

This exceeds the previous high seen in August shortly after Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's new Covid-19 cases jumped to a record on Tuesday (Jan 18), local media reported, as the government considered expanding measures to contain the infectious Omicron coronavirus variant.

The country had more than 27,000 new cases, broadcaster TBS said, exceeding the previous high seen in August shortly after Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics.

The western prefecture of Osaka posted a record 5,396 new cases, while Tokyo had 5,185, the highest since Aug 21.

Tokyo and 12 other prefectures have requested infection-fighting measures from the central government, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa told reporters, amid concern that Omicron infections would overwhelm the healthcare system.

The measures permit governors to order curbs on mobility and business, including shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants. An official decision on the quasi-emergency measures, as they are called, may be declared as early as Wednesday, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

That would follow curbs declared earlier this month in three regions hosting US military facilities, after it appeared that base outbreaks of Omicron spilled into surrounding communities.

Tokyo's occupancy rate of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients, a closely watched metric, rose to 23.4 per cent on Tuesday. An increase to 50 per cent would warrant declaration of a full state of emergency, officials have said.

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