Japan crosses 100,000 cases

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s coronavirus cases have topped 100,000, nine months after the first case was found in mid-January, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 people who were on a cruise ship that was docked off a Japanese port earlier this year.

About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the prefectural total to 30,677, including 453 deaths. Nationwide, Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.

Experts said Japan has so far managed to avoid “explosive” infections as in Europe and the United States (US) without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant, as well as other common preventive measures including social distancing.

Japan had a nationwide state of emergency in April and May, and experienced a less serious second wave in August, but has since been seeing a slight uptrend in new cases in northern prefectures, setting off concerns of a surge in the winter.

People shop at a secondhand book store in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Experts urged extra caution at dining parties and workplaces.

According to Health Ministry data, nearly half of the new patients were in their 20s and 30s. Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido this week raised its warning level after finding major clusters in urban entertainment districts.

Experts on Thursday also urged caution in Tokyo, where the daily count fluctuated between the 100s and 200s.

Meanwhile, India reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases, continuing a monthlong slowing trend in infections even as the country adds to its eight million cases. The Health Ministry also reported 563 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the confirmed death toll to 121,090.

Even as cases are dropping nationwide, New Delhi is facing what could be a third wave of infections. The capital is India’s worst-hit city and is among the few regions in the country seeing further new infections, clocking more than 5,000 daily in the last three days. The surge comes while seasonal pollution levels are soaring in the capital, worsening respiratory illnesses.

Sri Lankan authorities asked state employees to resume working from home in major townships as coronavirus infections continue to surge. The President’s office said government offices in Western province, where the recent outbreaks have been concentrated, have been asked to switch to remote work as well.

Sri Lanka lifted work-from-home measures when community infections subsided. But clusters emerging from a garment factory earlier this month and later from the country’s main wholesale fish market have resulted in a surge in infections and subsequent restrictions.

Authorities also announced yesterday they closed a resort town known as “little England” in the country’s central hills to visitors. Nuwara Eliya, about 170 kilometres east of Colombo, is in a tea-growing mountain region and is a famous tourist destination.

Top government official in Nuwara Eliya MBR Pushpa Kumara said the virus is spreading rapidly in the area and all tourist attractions including botanical gardens, national parks and waterfalls have been closed. So far, 9,791 COVID-19 patients have been reported in the island nation, including 19 deaths.