Tokyo's daily COVID-19 infections exceed 20,000 for first timePeople wearing protective face masks are seen in Tokyo, Japan on Feb 1, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato)

TOKYO— New COVID-19 cases in Tokyo exceeded 20,000 for the first time on Wednesday (Feb 2), dimming hopes that a wave of infections fuelled by the Omicron variant is peaking in Japan.

Nationwide cases reached a record 91,760, while 18 prefectures recorded all-time highs, according to a tally by online news service JX Press.

Tokyo reported 21,576 new cases, surpassing the previous record of 17,631 in the Japanese capital on Friday.

The closely watched usage rate of hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients edged up to 51.4 per cent. Officials previously said that a state of emergency would be needed if the rate reached 50 per cent, but now say the decision will depend on the number of serious cases and other factors.

The capital and most of Japan are now under restrictions to contain spread of the virus, with the latest wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The western prefecture of Osaka reported 11,171 new infections, down from a record 11,881 on Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Wednesday the government is not planning to declare a state of emergency but remains vigilant.

To mitigate stay-at-home orders for those who were in close contact with infected family members, the health ministry decided on Wednesday to amend the standby period to seven days starting from either when they show symptoms of COVID-19 or take measures to prevent infection, whichever happens later.

Currently, those who were in close contact with infected relatives are not allowed to leave home until seven days after medical treatment ends.

“In particular, as (the number of) infected children increases, (it) causes a rapid increase in infections among parents who are in close contact with them and forced to stand by at home,” Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told reporters.

“We need to maintain socioeconomic activity while preventing the spread of infections.”