Tokyo COVID-19 cases hit record 949 ahead of New Year holiday

TOKYO: Coronavirus infections in Tokyo hit a record daily high of 949 cases on Saturday (Dec 26) as Japan heads into the New Year holiday, which normally sees people stream from the capital into the provinces.

Serious cases were unchanged from a day earlier at 81.

Local media reported subdued scenes at Tokyo transport hubs a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, under pressure as daily cases continue to climb, urged the nation to stay home and avoid social mixing.

With New Year celebrations centred around family gatherings and mass visits to temples and shrines, experts have warned moderation will be essential to prevent infection rates from rising further amid concerns of pandemic fatigue.

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Suga’s initial political honeymoon after taking his post in September has ended, with his popularity sliding after criticism he was slow to react to rising infections in Tokyo and for attending a group steak dinner in defiance of his own calls for restraint.

The spread of the virus in Tokyo contrasts with another hotspot, the northern island of Hokkaido, where case numbers have fallen from a November peak.

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