Commuters wearing face masks walk at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo on Nov. 19. Japan is on 'maximum alert' after logging a record number of daily coronavirus infections. (Photo: AFP)
Japan reported more than 2,000 Covid-19 infections in a single day for the first time on Nov. 18, forcing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to place the Asian country on "maximum alert."
A total of 2,191 cases were reported compared with the previous high of 1,720 on Nov. 15. Capital Tokyo, a sprawling mega city of more than 14 million people, reported a fresh record high of 493 cases.
“We are now in a situation of maximum alert,” Suga told reporters.
Unlike the second wave of the outbreak in August, the current surge pushed up hospitalizations as Japan’s healthcare system is struggling to cope with the third wave.
The government’s chief spokesman said the capacity of hospitals is a cause for concern.
A worried Suga told reporters that he wants people to use masks even during meals.
"Prime Minister Suga instructed us to go all out" to curb the outbreak," Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister looking after the coronavirus response in Japan, said on Nov. 18
An experts’ government panel will hold a meeting on Nov. 20 to chalk out a response to the surge.
Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government was not planning to issue a blanket ban on inter-prefecture travel.
Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, has asked the public to skip unnecessary travel, especially to the regions, which are experiencing a surge.
“Please do not get complacent about the coronavirus,” he said.
The death toll from the pandemic stands at 1,945 in Japan. The figures also include 13 persons from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined near Tokyo earlier in the year. Its total number of cases is relatively small at 121,000.
The second wave in Japan was mainly centered around nightlife settings like bars, clubs and restaurants. Most victims were young adults, meaning that infections were mild or without many complications.
However, the third wave has badly affected older people and a broader swath of the population.
Japan is developing its own drug, Avigan, to fight the pandemic. The drug, developed by Fujifilm, is not a vaccine but rather a treatment for coronavirus symptoms. As a result, it does not pose a competition to the drugs being made by major pharmaceutical companies.
Japan has already pledged US$130 million to the WHO-led COVAX global initiative to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Asia in general has witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases recently.
India's tally has reached 8,912,907 as 38,617 new cases were registered across the country on Nov. 18. With 449 deaths since Nov. 17, the death toll in the country rose to 130,519.
Bangladesh reported 2,111 new cases and 21 deaths on Nov. 18 to take its tally to 438,795 and the death toll to 6,275.
The Philippines reported 1,383 new cases, bringing the total to 412,097.
Malaysia reported 660 new infections to take its total to 50,390.
South Korea reported 313 more cases as of Nov. 17 midnight, raising its number of infections to 29,311.