Photo/Illutration The National Hospital Organization Oita Medical Center, where a cluster is thought to be happening. Photo was taken in Oita on March 20. (Takeshi Nakajima)

Saitama and Gunma prefectures recorded their first deaths from the new coronavirus, while 46 additional cases of infection were confirmed as of 10 p.m. on March 22, including the first patient in Okayama Prefecture.

In Oita prefecture, eight people with connections to the same hospital tested positive for infection, bringing to 20 the total number of cases involving the facility.

This suggested that a cluster of infections has formed at the National Hospital Organization Oita Medical Center in Oita. 

The eight cases confirmed on March 22 included a nurse at a different hospital where a patient had been transferred.

The medical center stopped accepting outpatients and decided to conduct polymerase chain reaction tests on all 620 hospital staff and inpatients. 

In accordance with a request from the medical center, the health ministry has dispatched a task force to help bring the situation under control.

While Saitama and Gunma prefectures recorded their first deaths of coronavirus patients, three more fatalities were confirmed in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, bringing the day's death toll to five.

In other developments, people returning from overseas trips, especially Europe, were confirmed to be infected one after another.

In Osaka Prefecture, a family of three, a couple in their 40s and their kindergarten-age child, was found to be infected after they returned from their vacation in Spain.

A woman in her 40s, a resident of Nara Prefecture who developed a fever and started coughing during a stay in Mexico, tested positive after she returned to Japan.

In addition, 10 or so people who returned from the United States, Portugal, Mexico, France, Africa and elsewhere were confirmed to be infected.