1st LD Writethru: Japan's COVID-19 death toll exceeds 5,000

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TOKYO, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Japan's COVID-19 death toll topped 5,000 on Saturday as the country struggles to contain the resurgence of infections, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities.

As the number of infections continues to surge across the country, the pace of deaths is accelerating.

The death toll from the virus surpassed 1,000 in July last year, and topped 2,000 after about four months in November. In late December, it passed 3,000 and in less than 20 days, it exceeded the 4,000 mark.

By prefectures, Osaka has the highest number of deaths with 812, followed by Tokyo's 770 and Hokkaido's 561.

The latest wave of infections has forced Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to declare a state of emergency in 11 of the country's 47 prefectures, including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, earlier in the month.

Under the declaration, the government has asked people to stay home as much as possible, and bars and restaurants to shorten business hours, although there is currently no penalty for those who do not comply with the requests.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of weekly infection cases in 10 prefectures has reached Stage 4, the worst level on the government's four-point scale.

Among the 10 prefectures, nine are under the state of emergency and the other is the southern island prefecture of Okinawa.

With numbers of seriously ill patients being updated almost daily, medical professionals have warned that the medical system may collapse and that they will have to abandon some patients they could have treated because of a shortage of hospital beds.

As of Wednesday, the number of deaths in the country stood at about 4,300, or 1.3 percent of the total number infected, said the ministry.

By age, the death rate for COVID-19 patients in their 80s and above was 11.5 percent, while that for those in the 70s was 4.3 percent. Enditem

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