Yuichiro Hata, a former transport minister and incumbent lawmaker in Japan, died Sunday after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, his political party said. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA
Dec. 28 (UPI) -- An opposition lawmaker in Japan died Sunday after suddenly falling ill due to a coronavirus infection, according to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Yuichiro Hata, a former transport minister and parliamentarian, went to a hospital in Tokyo over the weekend after experiencing symptoms, including fever, Kyodo News reported Monday. Hata was 53.
According to Kyodo's sources, Hata began to feel sick Thursday, but did not see a doctor until Sunday afternoon, when his condition deteriorated rapidly. Hata was posthumously identified as a COVID-19 patient.
The Japanese lawmaker is the first incumbent parliamentarian to die of the novel coronavirus. Fellow politicians and other people who knew him have expressed shock at his sudden death. Peers described Hata as healthy, according to Kyodo.
Hata is the son of former Japanese Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, who was in office for nine weeks in 1994. Yukio Edano, leader of the CDPJ, said he had lost a "cherished colleague."
On Monday Japan confirmed 224,478 cases of COVID-19 and 3,338 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
NHK reported 2,390 new cases on Monday, with 481 of new cases identified in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose approval rating dropped by double digits by earlier this month, said Monday the country must be on guard against the further spread of the virus.
"The virus knows no year-end, or New Year holidays," Suga said, according to reports. In early December, Suga suspended a government-subsidized travel program, the "Go To Travel" campaign. The program was canceled through Jan. 11.
Japan has also barred entry of all foreign nationals. The ban, which is in effect until end of January, is part of Tokyo's response to the mutated form of the coronavirus in Britain.