TOKYO, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 1,274 new cases of COVID-19 in the capital, marking the eighth successive day the daily tally has surpassed 1,000 cases and bringing the cumulative total to 89,188 infections.
The number of patients in Tokyo designated as being in a "serious condition" increased by five to a record 160 patients, the metropolitan government said.
"Recently, the proportion of infected people aged 65 and over is increasing. Many of the deceased are elderly and have underlying illnesses," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said.
"Today there were 10 people who suddenly became ill and died at home," she said, reiterating her calls for thorough preventative measures to be taken against the spread of the virus.
With COVID-19 still showing little signs of abating in the capital and further afield, despite 11 prefectures including the hardest hit capital of 14 million currently under a government-issued state of emergency, the detection a day earlier of three cases of a new coronavirus variant has added to the country's woes.
Three people in their 20s to 60s were confirmed to be infected with the virus variant in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka.
None of them had traveled to Britain or had prior contact with people who have recently been to the country, known to be undergoing a rampant outbreak of the new coronavirus variant, as well as others thought to be associated with South Africa and Brazil.
Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture Heita Kawakatsu said that it was now vital for preventative measures to be taken against transmissions as well as ensure the health care system is strengthened.
"It is necessary to take more thorough infection prevention measures and further strengthen measures for medical care provision," Kawakatsu was quoted by local media as telling a press conference as he announced a virus emergency alert.
"If the variant is as transmissible as the one hitting Britain, the number of new infections will surge, putting the health care system at risk of collapsing," Kawakatsu said.
In Japan, about 40 cases of the highly transmissible virus variant have been detected among arrivals from overseas and people who had contact with those travelers, local media reported.
The variant has been detected in around 60 countries as of Jan. 18, and community-acquired infections were confirmed in 20 countries, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Britain, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
In Japan, the number of patients infected with the variant totaled 47 after the strain was detected in two asymptomatic patients on Jan. 19, the newspaper said.