The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported that 200,975 people tested positive for COVID-19 nationwide on Saturday, exceeding 200,000 for the first time. According to the papers, the number of cases nationwide hit a record high for the fourth consecutive day that was almost double the level reached during the peak of the sixth wave. On Saturday, 17 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Osaka, and Fukuoka, hit record highs, and Tokyo confirmed 32,698 cases, exceeding 30,000 for the third consecutive day. Yomiuri added that among the number of people who tested positive for the virus over the week through July 19, 60% were in their 30s or younger, including 17% in their teens and 16% in their 20s. Noting that the percentage of people in their 30s or younger who have received booster shots is below the overall average, the papers said the GOJ and local municipalities are planning to step up efforts to administer boosters to young people. The number of seriously ill patients rose to 203, about 13% of the peak level recorded on Feb. 26 during the sixth wave. Nikkei wrote that the hospital bed occupancy rate for COVID-19 patients exceeded 50% in eight prefectures on July 21, including Okinawa at 77%. The hospital bed occupancy rate for seriously ill COVID-19 patients was 49% in Tokyo and 28% in Osaka and Okinawa.
In a related story, Sankei reported on Saturday that the Health Ministry began preparations to introduce Omicron-specific vaccines in the fall or later, saying that the ministry is hoping that the new vaccines, currently being developed by Pfizer and Moderna, will help prevent patients from becoming seriously ill.