Photo/Illutration A day care facility for the elderly in Nagoya in March (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan's death toll from the novel coronavirus marked a grim milestone on July 20, surpassing 1,000.

The combined deaths reported to date in Tokyo and each prefectural government now total 988. 

The count climbs to 1,001 if fatalities from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked at Yokohama Port in February, are added.

More than 80 percent of the dead were age 70 or older. About 30 percent of infected people who were 80 or older died.

Tokyo led the number of deaths with 327, followed by Hokkaido with 102, Kanagawa Prefecture with 98 and Osaka Prefecture with 86.

The first domestic death from COVID-19 was confirmed on Feb. 13.

The number of new infections peaked around April 10. Reports of deaths then increased two to three weeks after that.

May 2 saw 31 deaths, the highest number to date for a single day.

Among the deaths excluding passengers of the Diamond Princess, people age 80 or older accounted for 57 percent, according to health ministry data as of July 15.

People in their 70s accounted for 27 percent, and those age 70 or older accounted for 84 percent.

Among those 80 and older who were infected with the virus, 28.3 percent died. Among those in their 70s, 14.2 percent did not survive.

Many of them died from pneumonia, which poses a fatal risk for elderly people.

People with pre-existing conditions are likely to develop severe symptoms once they are infected with the virus, experts believe.

When people contract the virus through an in-hospital infection, their fatality rate tends to be higher, according to experts.

Japan's total fatality rate from COVID-19 is 4.4 percent, lower than the 10 percent death rate from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and the 35 percent from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

But the rate is far higher than that of the super-flu pandemic that raged in Japan from 2009 to 2010, which was 0.001 percent.

Japan's number of fresh virus cases declined around mid-May, and the number of deaths has remained low recently.

However, experts warn that once the infection spreads among elderly people, the number will rise again.