Japan reports highest daily virus deaths since state of emergency

Aug 18 , 2020. 11 hours ago – 23:05 KYODO NEWS

Tenri University Vice President Tatsuki Okada (L) speaks at a press conference in Tenri, Nara Prefecture, on Aug. 17, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO – Japan confirmed 15 deaths from the novel coronavirus Monday, the highest in a day since the nationwide state of emergency was lifted in late May, as urban areas continue to battle with high numbers of new cases.

Osaka Prefecture accounted for the most deaths at five, followed by two in Chiba Prefecture. Eight other prefectures, including Tokyo, saw one death each.

Daily deaths had mostly remained in the single digits since the state of emergency was lifted on May 25, but numbers have risen again in recent weeks.

Japan’s total death toll now stands at 1,132, including fatalities from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February.

Over 640 new cases of novel coronavirus infection were confirmed nationwide on Monday, as Tenri University in Nara Prefecture reported it had suspended the activities of its rugby club after a cluster outbreak was discovered among players.

According to university officials and the Nara prefectural government, 24 infected players had exhibited mild or no symptoms. All 168 rugby players that represent the club reside in a university dormitory in the western Japan city of Tenri.

Fifty-five players as well as six coaches and staff have tested negative for the virus, while the remaining 89 team members will be tested soon, according to the officials.

Many schools across the country reopened Monday after a summer vacation shortened to allow students to catch up on classes missed due to earlier closures caused by the pandemic.

Tokyo on Monday reported 161 new cases of the novel coronavirus, falling below 200 daily infections for the first time in six days.

The single-day figure followed 260 infections confirmed on Sunday, bringing the average daily new infections in Tokyo over the past week down slightly to 258.7.

But the daily figures, which reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions, have a tendency to be lower after weekends and holidays, when less testing is conducted.

Of Monday’s tally in Tokyo, cases involving people in their 20s and 30s accounted for roughly half, the metropolitan government said, adding that around 60 percent had unknown transmission routes.

The capital’s cumulative total now stands at 17,875, accounting for about a third of the nationwide tally of around 57,500.

As Tokyo has seen new infections in the triple digits every day this month, including a daily record of 472 on Aug. 1, Gov. Yuriko Koike has called for residents to avoid traveling or returning to their hometowns to visit relatives during the summer holiday season around mid-August.

The Nara prefectural government believes infections spread among the players at the university due to their close living quarters and because they came into physical contact at training.

The team has not played against other clubs since March and social distancing measures were implemented in the dorm’s cafeteria, according to the university.

The club, established in 1925, is known as a college rugby superpower in Japan, producing many players that went on to play for the national team.