In Japan, the spike in coronavirus cases continues to reach new peaks and upend daily life for people across the country. Tokyo reported more than 600 new infections on Thursday... a record daily tally reports NHK.
More than 45,000 people have now tested positive in the capital.
Experts warn cases involving elderly people, who face higher risk of getting seriously ill, are on the rise.
Director Ohmagari Norio of Disease Control and Prevention Center said, "The number of newly infected people who are aged 65 or older, as well as the ratio against the total new cases, are increasing. We need to protect our elderly from being infected at all opportunities."
According to NHK, hospitals, welfare facilities and schools in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido have been hit by cluster infections.
Officials are asking residents in the capital city of Sapporo to stay at home and avoid travel to other areas as much as possible until Christmas. Bars and restaurants are also asked to close early.
Hokkaido Governor Suzuki Naomichi said, "It is difficult to provide usual medical services during the New Year holidays in the first place. We must ease the burden on the healthcare system before that period so that it doesn't become overwhelmed."
Asahikawa City is facing a shortage of healthcare workers. Residents there will also be asked to refrain from non-essential outings.
A man in the city said, "After shopping I go home right away. My relatives gather to celebrate the New Year every year... but maybe not this time."
The western prefecture of Osaka confirmed 415 new cases on Thursday.
A cluster infection occurred at a hospital there that treats serious COVID-19 cases.
Eight patients and five medical staff tested positive earlier this month. All of them show light or no symptoms.
Osaka Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi said, "The cluster occurred in a different department in a different building. At this point, I don't think the hospital will be forced to stop treating coronavirus patients."
More than 173,000 cases have been reported across Japan since the pandemic began. Over 2,500 people have died.