Tokyo’s new coronavirus cases on Thursday topped 500 for the first time since the pandemic began, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga saying Japan is on “maximum alert” and calling on people to do all they can to prevent infections.

The capital reported 534 cases, the second straight day that cases in Tokyo hit a daily record. The number is the result of 8,600 tests on Nov 16.

The highest number of cases were people in their 20s (130), followed by 110 in their 30s and 96 in their 40s. Among those hospitalized, 38 have developed serious symptoms, one down from Wednesday, according to the local government.

Suga told reporters he wants people to wear face masks at restaurants as much as possible, taking them off only briefly to eat and drink, to reduce the infection risk.

Suga also said he has instructed Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, and health minister Norihisa Tamura to take additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus based on discussions at a two-day expert panel meeting through Friday.

A man rests under colorful autumn leaves, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Tokyo. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato

The Tokyo metropolitan government, meanwhile, is expected to raise its virus alert to the highest of four levels, officials said. But it is unlikely to request restaurant owners to shorten opening hours.

Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike said she will make a final decision on whether to raise the alert level following a meeting of experts on Thursday.

The metropolitan government’s highest level warns that infections are “spreading.” The level four alert was last in place in the capital on Sept. 10, when it was lowered to the current level three, meaning that infections are “starting to spread.”

But its alert system merely reflects the latest infection situation in the capital and has no binding force, including business closure restrictions.

In the week through Wednesday, the capital’s rolling average for the number of new daily infections stood at 335, jumping from 169.3 as of Nov. 1 and nearing the peak of 346.1 registered on Aug 5.

Medical experts have described the resurgence as a third wave of infections, saying one of the major causes is the arrival of cooler temperatures and people spending more time indoors without enough ventilation.

There has also been a rapid rise of cluster infections outside urban areas, such as in Hokkaido which is expected to report more than 240 cases Thursday.

This content was originally published here.