Japan reached the 100,000 mark as the new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, was reportedly considering extending the Go To Travelcampaign to help boost consumption in the world’s third-biggest economy. Critics have said the recent addition of Tokyo to the heavily subsidised programme, which was introduced amid confusion in late July, may have contributed to the rise in infections.
But the deputy chief cabinet secretary, Naoki Okda, told reporters the government believed it was possible “to continue social and economic activity by taking effective measures to keep the number of serious cases and deaths to a minimum”.
Authorities in Tokyo are preparing for the anticipated rise in Covid-19 infections during the forthcoming flu season by dramatically ramping up its testing capacity, NHK said. The metropolitan government can currently conduct up to 10,200 tests a day, but that will rise to around 60,000 a day by the end of the year, NHK added, citing unnamed officials.
Japan had recorded 100,516 cases and 1,761 deaths as of Thursday, according to a tallyby public broadcaster NHK. The number of new infections nationwide totaled 809, the first time it had exceeded 800 since the end of August. Experts have attributed the uptick to domestic travel – encouraged by government subsidies – and a rise in economic activity.
While daily case numbers have slowed since their August peak, experts advising the health ministry have warned of a recent upward trend in Tokyo and Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost main island and one of the first regions to be affected by the coronavirus outbreakat the start of the year.
The health ministry said Japan had 3.21 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people during the week from 20 October, up from 2.84 in the week from 6 October, the Kyodo news agency reported.
Japan has fared far better than other parts of the world, however, and ranks a lowly 49th in cumulative cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Mask-wearing has been commonplace since the start of the pandemic, and Japanese health authorities were quicker than those in other countries to warn of the risks of aerosol transmission.