TOKYO - Japan saw the number of people with serious symptoms of coronavirus hit a record 462, the health ministry said Sunday, as the country grapples with a recent resurgence of the virus.
The latest figure comes as Tokyo and the central Japan prefecture of Aichi are asking eateries in the capital and parts of Nagoya to shorten business hours from this weekend to fight the further spread of infections.
The number of people with severe symptoms increased by 22 from Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
On Sunday, Tokyo reported 418 new cases of coronavirus. While the figure in the Japanese capital was down from 561 the previous day and a record 570 cases on Friday, it nonetheless remains high for a Sunday, when fewer cases are reported.
The metropolitan government has raised its virus alert to the highest of four levels for the first time since early September.
On Saturday, Tokyo kicked off a 20-day period during which establishments including restaurants that serve alcohol are requested to shorten business hours, with the metropolitan government to provide 400,000 yen ($3,800) in financial support to each business that complies.
A similar call for shorter business hours also took effect in parts of Nagoya on Sunday. The Aichi prefectural government has requested eateries serving alcohol to close by 9 p.m. and also said it will give up to 400,000 yen to those that cooperate.
The latest call, however, was not universally welcomed by businesses already reeling from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and pinning hopes on a pickup in demand during the year-end party season.
"I will not comply with the request," said the 33-year-old manager of an Italian restaurant in Nagoya.
He said he had closed his restaurant for about three months from spring and started offering take-out and delivery over the summer when the prefecture requested businesses to shorten their hours.
After taking coronavirus countermeasures such as installing partitions in the restaurant, he resumed business in September and customers were just starting to return.
The man was skeptical about the prefectural government's request, saying that restaurants are likely to find themselves in a situation when they are crowded anyway in popular timeslots, exposing customers to confined, close-contact settings.
"Is there any meaning to (shortening) business hours?" he asked.