Tokyo Governor warns of possible ‘explosion’ in COVID-19 cases

TOKYO (Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo is severe and could explode in the coming days just after Japan begins its New Year holiday season, in which millions of people usually move through the country, the city’s governor said on Wednesday.

The capital on Wednesday recorded 944 new cases of coronavirus, just less than the record of 949 recorded on Saturday, and medical experts warned that the city would soon see more than 1,000 new patients a day if the outbreak were not.

“Please emphasize life above fun,” Governor Yuriko Koike said at a news conference, urging people to stay home as much as possible during the holidays.

Tokike was at a critical time, with cold winter weather forecasts and highly contagious variant strains of the coronavirus from Britain and South Africa already detected in Japan, Koike said.

“The situation is extremely serious. We are facing a large number of virus cases that we have not seen before,” she added.

“The number of cases can explode at any time. Any of us can get infected at any time … If we do not get rid of it now, we will face a much worse situation.”

The Japanese government on Monday began banning access to foreign nationals of non-residents after the discovery of the British variant in Japan, and called on citizens to refrain from the parties, family gatherings and trips that are usual at this time of year.

About 3,400 people died of the coronavirus in Japan at the end of Tuesday, out of about 227,390 cases, NHK public television said.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Stephen COates)