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Japan’s capital found a record 949 new coronavirus cases Saturday as Tokyo authorities urged residents to stay home.

That compared with 884 new cases on Friday and the previous high of 888 on Thursday, according to data provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Authorities have imposed the highest alert in the metropolis of nearly 14 million people, and warned that the medical situation there is strained.

Governor Yuriko Koike has called on residents to refrain from unnecessary outings, and has asked bars and restaurants in central districts to close at 10 p.m. That’s an effort to slow the spread during a period when many people attend so-called “Bonen-kai" gatherings, which translates to “forget-the-year party."

The warnings from authorities have failed to slow the spread, with the seven-day moving average of confirmed cases rising to 681 on Friday from 444.3 on Dec. 1. The city also faces new concerns over a variant identified in the UK after Japan on Friday confirmed that five returnees from the country were infected with the strain.

On Saturday, two more people were found infected with the strain, broadcaster NTV reported, citing an unidentified person. One was a man in his 30s who returned from the UK on Dec. 16 and another was his family member. Both are residents of Tokyo, and are the first cases confirmed to have the mutated virus outside of airport quarantine.

Koike said the New Year’s holiday period would be “a very important juncture" that would predict the future of Tokyo in 2021, and asked residents to avoid going out during the holidays. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also renewed a call on Friday for the public to spend the holidays at home.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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