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Japan, South Korea hit record new COVID-19 cases

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past a Christmas market in Tokyo. Photo by Kimimasa Mayama/EPA-EFE
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past a Christmas market in Tokyo. Photo by Kimimasa Mayama/EPA-EFE

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Japan hit its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases Saturday, topping 3,000 new infections, health officials said.

The country recorded 3,041 new cases and 28 deaths, marking the first time the Japan has topped 3,000 daily cases, according to health authorities.

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In Tokyo, health authorities reported a record 621 cases. Of the new cases, 181 were among people in their 20s, followed by 119 cases among those in their 30s, 89 cases among people in their 40s, and 77 cases among people 65 or older, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Welfare Bureau.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said testing has increased and the government plans to focus on measures to keep elderly from falling ill.

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Restaurants, bars and other nightlife establishments that serve alcohol have been asked to shorten their business hours and close by 10 p.m. Koike said the city is considering whether to extend the request to shorten their business hours with a deadline set to expire on Thursday.

A local owner of a shop for restaurant supplies, Miki Shigeru, told NHK the request for shorter business hours is hitting the business hard since the year-end period is usually the busiest. Sales are down 30% at the business this year.

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Since the pandemic began, the country has reported 178,207 cases and 2,462 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's global tracker.

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South Korea also hit its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day on Saturday, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The country reported 950 new cases and six new deaths, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, bringing total cases to 41,736 and total deaths to 578.

The previous record for highest daily number of cases in South Korea was 909 on Feb. 29.

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Mexico, meanwhile, approved emergency use for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday. Six countries have so far cleared the vaccine, including Britain, Bahrain, Canada, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Mexico has reported over 1.2 million cases and over 113,000 deaths, the fourth-highest number deaths of any country worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The United States has the most cases and most deaths of any country worldwide at over 15.8 million cases and over 295,000 deaths.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected over 71.2 million people and killed over 1.5 million people.

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