Tokyo reports 68 new virus cases, a record daily increase

Crowds flocked to see the cherry blossoms at Ueno Park in Tokyo last week. (AP pic)

TOKYO: Tokyo has confirmed 68 new coronavirus cases, a record daily increase, public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday, as the Japanese capital scrambles to prevent a wider outbreak, while a cluster of infections increased near the city.

Japan has so far been spared a major spread of the coronavirus that has hit Europe and North America, but authorities fear a rise in cases with no known source of infection could signal a bigger new wave.

Authorities confirmed 28 new coronavirus cases from a cluster related to a home for the disabled in Chiba prefecture, adjacent to Tokyo, NHK said.

The outbreak has infected more than 1,800 people in Japan, with 55 deaths as of Sunday afternoon, excluding 712 cases and 10 deaths from a cruise ship that was moored near Tokyo last month, NHK said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the coronavirus pandemic, warning that Japan may need to prepare for a national emergency.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has also asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, as the city has become the centre of Japan’s coronavirus epidemic.

Of the 68 new cases in Tokyo, more than 20 are linked to a hospital in the eastern Tokyo ward of Taito, where many patients and staff have already tested positive, NHK said.

Tokyo authorities had no immediate comment on the NHK report.