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Coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit new high as city prepares to launch its own "CDC"

Tokyo governor on Olympics, coronavirus
Tokyo governor on Olympics, coronavirus 02:11

Tokyo COVID-19 cases in Tokyo soared to new high of 463, a jump of nearly 100 in just 24 hours. Officials said a third of the infections originated in the city's bustling Shinjuku Ward, home to warrens of cramped clubs where patrons pay to drink with companions — a district that has become practically synonymous with viral transmission.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday that talk of a second national shutdown was premature,  but Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called for a more aggressive approach.

"If the infection situation worsens, Tokyo must independently consider declaring a state of emergency," she said, noting that targeted partial business closures will start on Monday.

For most of the month of August, bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors will be asked to close at 10 pm; those that comply with the voluntary closure request are eligible for compensation of $1,900. Anticipating a long struggle against the disease, Koike said total shutdowns were "not a realistic option."

Koike said the capital will launch its own version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October. "Tokyo's CDC" would be tasked with convening experts to perform surveys and form policy, and unify a coronavirus response for the city of 14 million. 

Virus Outbreak Japan Daily Life
People wearing masks against the spread of the new coronavirus walk at Shibuya pedestrian crossing in Tokyo Friday, July 31, 2020. The Japanese capital confirmed Friday more than 400 new coronavirus cases. Eugene Hoshiko / AP

Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is overseeing COVID-19 measures nationally, said that while case numbers are rising, two other closely-watched metrics — the number of gravely ill patients and infections among senior citizens — remain relatively low. As of Thursday, there were 90 seriously ill COVID-19 patients nationwide — a three-fold rise in as many weeks — yet still well below the level seen in May. 

Still, the national government warns the danger signs are clear. Infections are spreading beyond major cities, primarily in nightlife establishments and eateries that are ignoring antiviral measures. While most of the new cases are among younger patients, older age groups are starting to be affected.

Government experts emphasized that the biggest risk remains primarily in "3C" settings: close spaces with poor ventilation, crowded areas, and close conversation areas. Other venues, such as offices, public transit and shops, they said, remain low-risk. 

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