More people have committed suicide in October than have died from Covid-19 over the entire year in Japan, with government statistics showing women are worst affected.
The country, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, recorded 2,153 such incidents for the month of October, marking the fourth month in a row that the figure has increased.
As of Friday the country has recorded a total of 2,087 coronavirus deaths.
Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, told CNN: 'We didn't even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries ... but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides.
'That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future.'
The rise has disproportionately affected women, with suicides among women increasing almost 83% compared to the same month the previous year.
In comparison, male suicides rose almost 22% over the same time period.
Women, who make up a large proportion of the hospitality and retail sector, have faced lay-offs as they bear the brunt of pandemic-induced job losses.
They have also been put at greater risk of domestic violence due to spending more time indoors.
Women have been feeling increased anxiety about their children's health and wellbeing amid the pandemic and school closures in the spring led to increased childcare responsibilities.
According to a global study carried out by Care International, women have pointed to skyrocketing unpaid care burdens as a source of stress, in addition to worries about livelihoods, food, and health care.
Prior to this year, Japan had been steadily lowering its suicide rate, and last year recorded 20,000 self-inflicted deaths, its lowest figure since records began in 1978.
It comes as Japanese officials have warned of a third wave of coronavirus infections in recent weeks as the country enters its winter months.
The number of people hospitalized in serious condition for COVID-19 in Japan reached a record 440 people, the Health Ministry said Saturday.
New reported cases nationwide topped more than 2,600 people, according to tallies by local media. If confirmed by officials, that would be a record as well.
In Tokyo, daily cases have totaled more than 500 recently, raising alarm as the number had been hovering at about half that for the last couple of months.
Although Japan has never had a lockdown, restaurants and bars have periodically closed early, including in Tokyo starting Saturday.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.