Photo/Illutration Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, holds a news conference on Dec. 21. (The Asahi Shimbun)

National associations of doctors, nurses and seven other medical groups in Japan declared a state of medical emergency on Monday, urging the government to support the nation's medical system creaking under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The spread of the coronavirus infection shows no signs of stopping. Left unchecked, people in Japan will not be able to receive regular medical care, let alone care for COVID-19," the joint statement said.

The nine groups, which also include national associations of dentists and pharmacists, called on the government to provide proper assistance to frontline medical workers, and on the public to exercise infection prevention measures thoroughly.

While nowhere near the severity seen in the United States and parts of Europe, coronavirus infections in Japan have risen sharply to record highs this month, raising fears that medical facilities may be overwhelmed when they are typically understaffed in the holiday season.