Photo/Illutration Health experts have warned that a continuing rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Tokyo could overwhelm medical services. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo will confirm about 18,000 new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 27 if the novel coronavirus continues to spread at its current pace, health experts advising the Tokyo metropolitan government said on Jan. 20.

The expert panel said the daily average of new cases for Tokyo in the week to Jan. 19 was 4,555, about four times that of the previous week.

The capital reported 8,638 new cases on Jan. 20, smashing the earlier single-day record for the second straight day.

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is fueling the sixth wave of infections. But people who catch this strain, particularly younger individuals, appear less likely to develop severe symptoms.

However, the health experts are concerned that medical care services could become overwhelmed if the virus keeps spreading.

Tokyo had 1,805 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of Jan. 19, double the figure from a week earlier.

The panel predicted the number of newly hospitalized patients would exceed 7,000 at the current pace.

“The number of new cases is increasing far more rapidly than in the initial stage of the fifth infection wave,” said Norio Omagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center under the National Center for Global Health and Medicine. “We may be forced to halt our social activities.”

According to the panel’s latest report, people in their 50s or younger account for 90 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, while those 65 or older make up only 5.3 percent of the total.

But the number of new COVID-19 cases is surging, followed by a soaring number of seniors infected with the virus. Over the past week, 1,184 people 65 and older were confirmed infected, more than four times the 265 confirmed in the preceding week.

Group infections have hit nursing homes in the capital, leading to a sharp rise in infections among people in their 80s and older.

Those in their 70s accounted for 18 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the highest ratio among all age groups.

As of Jan. 19, seven of the 10 COVID-19 patients in serious condition in Tokyo were in their 60s and older.

“Many elderly patients need to stay in hospitals for a long time after they develop severe symptoms,” Masataka Inokuchi, vice chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, said after the panel meeting. “That could place a heavy burden on medical institutions in the future.”