TOKYO - At least five prefectures - including Kyoto, Osaka and Okinawa - registered new daily highs in Covid-19 infections on Tuesday (July 28), raising questions on the wisdom of a national travel campaign and the effectiveness of the country's comparatively laissez-faire approach.
Unlike the measures taken during a state of emergency from April 7 to May 25, there are no national business closure advisories nor stay-home requests.
The government insists that the current situation does not warrant another economic shutdown, attributing the rising numbers to more aggressive testing and vigorous contact tracing that have sniffed out asymptomatic and mild cases.
But this belies the fact that the national tally has surpassed the high of 720 cases during the emergency on six of the past seven days, including 965 cases as of 8pm on Tuesday.
Among these are 266 in Tokyo, while Osaka (155), Aichi (110), Kyoto (31), Gifu (25) and Okinawa (21, excluding US base camp infections) all reset unwanted records.
These figures are occurring a week since the start of the multibillion-dollar domestic Go To travel campaign last Wednesday.
But underscoring another threat as Japan gears up for summer - typically a season of brutal heat and typhoons - is Kumamoto prefecture, now recovering from flooding and landslides due to torrential rains this month that left at least 65 people dead.
Coronavirus cases there have spiked, with the 76 cases in the three days since Sunday alone accounting for more than half of the prefecture's total of 136.
News channels on Tuesday night devoted airtime to the growing strain on Japanese hospitals, with about 600 diagnosed Covid-19 patients awaiting admission in Tokyo.
In Nagoya, a woman in her 20s said she was "wrecked" that she was endangering her family after she was made to wait for five days for a Covid-19 test at home, despite symptoms of a 39.4 deg C fever and breathing difficulties.
To curb the spread, local leaders, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura, have urged residents to avoid unnecessary outings. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said yesterday gatherings should be capped at five people.