Photo/Illutration People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing on Jan. 17 in Tokyo. (AP Photo)

Japan’s daily total of new COVID-19 cases soared past 30,000 on Jan. 18, the first time it has topped that level since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, as the contagious Omicron variant is hitting hard.

The previous record for a single-day nationwide tally was 25,990 cases on Aug. 20, 2021, during the fifth wave of infections driven by the Delta variant.

The latest national total was fueled by new highs set by many prefectures, including Osaka, at 5,396; Hyogo, 1,645; Fukuoka, 1,338; and Kyoto, 1,024, which exceeded 1,000 for the first time. 

Osaka Prefecture’s number broke the previous record of 3,760 cases logged just two days ago and is a significant increase from that figure, exceeding the 5,185 new cases posted in Tokyo on Jan. 18.

The capital’s daily count was the first time the 5,000 mark has been surpassed since Aug. 21.

Tokyo's record of new daily cases was set on Aug. 13, when 5,908 new cases were posted. On Aug. 21, the number was 5,247.

Tokyo’s latest count sent the daily average of new cases for the week through Jan. 18 to 3,858.6, 4.3 times the number for the preceding week.

The number of serious cases based on the metropolitan government’s definition--patients on a ventilator or ECMO heart-lung bypass machines--rose to seven, up two from Jan. 17.

There were no new deaths from COVID-19 reported in the capital.