On Friday, Japan’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 crossed 500,000. This was the third straight day when at least 3,000 cases were reported giving rise to fears of a fresh surge. Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa are reported to be teetering dangerously on the brink of a health emergency.

Though an emergency had been declared in January after the country recorded a single-day spike of 8,000 fresh cases, it was lifted gradually with Tokyo becoming the last city to exit the emergency last month. However, on Friday, Tokyo reported over 500 new cases for the third day in a row.

New variants of the virus could be responsible for this new surge as suggested by many cases reported from Hyogo and Osaka prefectures. According to the National Institute of Infectious Disease, an estimated 70 percent of the COVID-19 affected people in these two prefectures were infected by new variants. Local authorities are now contemplating stronger anti-virus measures.

At present vaccination is only available to health and emergency workers, but it is expected to be opened to those aged 65 and older from Monday.

* Feature image by Fransisco Diez via Wikimedia Commons.