Photo/Illutration People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus walk in the snow in Tokyo on Feb. 10. (AP Photo)

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 has sharply increased in Japan this year and surpassed 20,000 on Feb. 11.

In November, after the fifth wave of infections had subsided, the nationwide death toll was in the single digits on most days.

But on Jan. 14, after the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus spread widely, the fatality figure exceeded 10 for the first time in about two months. On Feb. 4, the number went into triple digits for the first time in about eight months.

From Feb. 8 to 10, more than 150 died each day from the disease.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Feb. 11 reported 18,660 new COVID-19 cases, the third straight week-on-week decline.

Nine deaths related to COVID-19 were reported the same day in the capital.

For the week ending Feb. 11, the daily average of new cases was 17,687.1, a 1.8-percent increase over the average of the previous week.

Sixty-one of the COVID-19 patients in Tokyo had symptoms serious enough to require the use of a ventilator or other equipment to breathe. The figure was a decrease of three from the previous day.

In Osaka Prefecture, authorities reported 15,302 fresh cases on Feb. 11 and 27 deaths from COVID-19.