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Tokyo’s hospital bed occupancy rate hits 48% as capital logs 17,433 new cases

Tokyo confirmed 17,433 COVID-19 cases and three deaths Saturday as the highly transmissible omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across the country. The case figure was slightly down from the record high reported a day earlier.

The occupancy rate of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the capital stood at 48%, up 1.9 percentage points from Friday, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The number of seriously ill patients under Tokyo’s criteria increased by two to 22.

Hokkaido logged a record 3,002 new infections and one death.

Okinawa Prefecture, which has seen its case count slowly drop in recent days, reported 979 new infections, down from 1,313 a week ago.

Elsewhere, Gunma, Iwate and Okayama recorded records highs.

On Friday, the nationwide tally reached 81,822, setting a new record for the fourth consecutive day. Japan started seeing an explosive increase in daily COVID-19 cases about a month ago, when there were only around 500 cases a day, as the omicron variant of the virus spread nationwide.

“It is difficult to say whether (the virus spread) will pass a peak in a matter of one week or two” despite the slowing pace of increase in new cases in most parts of the country, Shigeru Omi, the government’s top COVID-19 adviser, told a parliament session Friday.

The number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms stood at 697 on Friday, up 160 from the previous day, the health ministry said.

According to a survey by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of 122 people who were admitted to hospitals and confirmed to be infected with the omicron variant of coronavirus, 63% of them had already been vaccinated twice against COVID-19, substantiating recent studies showing vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time.

Currently, 34 out of the country’s 47 prefectures have been placed under a quasi-state of emergency that allows local authorities to ask restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours and limit or stop the serving of alcohol.

The rapid spread of the variant is putting pressure on the health care system and other areas of society. As such, Japan will further shorten the quarantine period to seven days from the current 10 for people who have been in close contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.

Japan also reduced the 10-day self-isolation required for people entering the country to seven days, starting Saturday, the health ministry announced late Friday.

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