Photo/Illutration Tokyoites at a crossing on Aug. 4, when new COVID-19 cases hit a record 4,166 in the capital. The main street is closed for an Olympic competition. (Shiro Nishihata)

The novel coronavirus spread has “reached an unprecedented level” in Japan, with around half of the 47 prefectures now in the most serious stage in terms of rate of new infections, a health ministry expert panel said.

The highest stage 4 level for new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people is 25 over one week.

Hit by the highly contagious Delta variant, 23 prefectures surpassed that threshold in the most recent week to Aug. 3.

The rates for Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture, which are both under a state of emergency, were 167.82 and 179.15, respectively.

Other prefectures that are taking pre-emergency measures against the virus are also seeing soaring numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

The figures were 32.61 new infections per 100,000 people for Fukushima, 46.33 for Ibaraki, 41.93 for Tochigi, 36.41 for Gunma, 30.58 for Yamanashi, and 30.83 for Nara.

The national total was 58.54, 2.09 times the number for the preceding week.

The total number of new COVID-19 cases in Japan hit a record 14,207 on Aug. 4, after topping 10,000 on July 29 for the first time.

Tokyo reported a record 4,166 newly confirmed infections, while neighboring Saitama Prefecture logged 1,200, its new high. Fukuoka, Kyoto, Okinawa and nine other prefectures also renewed their daily record counts on that day.

The panel urged authorities and citizens to share a heightened sense of crisis to combat the virus.

According to the panel, screenings of positive samples found the Delta variant in 13,523 cases in total as of Aug. 2, almost double the number from the previous week.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases estimates the Delta variant now accounts for about 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the Kanto region and about 60 percent in the Kansai region.

In Tokyo and eight other prefectures, the occupancy rate of hospital beds surpassed 50 percent, putting them in the most serious stage 4 for that category.

Okinawa and Fukushima prefectures reported occupancy rates of 74.9 percent and 72.2 percent, respectively.

The virus has also hit the Tokyo Olympics.

Organizers said Aug. 4 that an infection cluster broke out at the Olympic Village, and five of 12 Greek artistic swimmers staying there have tested positive for the virus.

The remaining seven Greek swimmers left the village and are staying at an outside facility as a precaution. Their test results were negative that day.