Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 on Friday for the first time since early February, doubling from a week earlier, as the country enters a seventh wave of infections spurred by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
The government decided the same day to expand the scope of people who can receive fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots to all medical personnel and workers at elderly care facilities as the nationwide daily count climbed closer to a record high of around 104,000.
Infections have spread rapidly across the country, with Tokyo reporting 19,059 new cases on Friday, the highest level since February 5 and more than doubling from the previous week.
The country’s cumulative COVID-19 infections rose above 10 million cases the previous day, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said there is no plan to impose restrictions.
The decision to expand the vaccine coverage means 8 million more people will be eligible for the shots in addition to people aged 60 and over and those between 18 and 59 with illnesses and considered at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.
Kishida said at a government meeting on the coronavirus response that he intends to facilitate the vaccination of younger people as well.
The latest expansion of inoculations, aimed at protecting high-risk groups and securing enough personnel for treatment and care, is expected to start as early as next week.
The government will ask prefectures to set up more than 100 free COVID-19 testing spots at major train stations, airports and other locations to allow people to be tested before traveling during the summer vacation season
It will also urge people and businesses to secure sufficient ventilation while air conditioners are used amid the summer heat.
At a press conference on Thursday, Kishida stressed the need for “maximum caution” while keeping the economy going at the same time, adding that the government will use its strengthened COVID-19 response capability to stem the spread of infections.
Japan’s cumulative COVID-19 infections topped 10 million cases Thursday, with the country logging over 90,000 new cases for the second straight day.
In Tokyo, where 16,662 new cases were confirmed Thursday, the metropolitan government raised the capital’s COVID-19 alert to the highest of four levels.