On Thursday, July 22, Tokyo witnessed another rise in COVID-19 cases, where worries grow of an increase in the virus spread during the Olympics the day after.
The 1979 new cases are the highest since the 2044 rise on January 15.
Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga announced a state of emergency on July 12 as he was determined to hold the Olympics, but daily cases have increased sharply since then.
Banning alcohol sales and reducing working hours for bars and restaurants is part of the emergency plan expected to last until August 22, as the Olympics end on August 8.
Some 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths were recorded in Japan since the beginning of the pandemic, most of which are in 2021.
On Friday, July 23, and after a year of delay due to the pandemic, the Olympics begin. Whereas spectators are banned from all locales within the Tokyo area, limited audiences are allowed at a few distant locations.
Japan’s PM Suga has faced criticism over prioritizing the Olympics over the population’s health, and his public support ratings have decreased to about 30% in recent media reviews. There were also fewer celebrations ahead of the Games.
On Thursday, Kentaro Kobayashi, the Olympic opening ceremony director, was fired over a past Holocaust joke he made during a show in 1998.
According to diplomacy relating to the Olympics, Suga is scheduled to meet and have dinner with U.S. first lady Jill Biden at the state guest house on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he was visited by the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Also, on Thursday, Emperor Naruhito met with the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in a courtesy visit at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Naruhito said he hoped all athletes would present their best performances and compete in good health. Bach stated that the Olympic community is making an all-out effort not to endanger the Japanese people.
Virus infections among unvaccinated individuals aged less than 50 are rising sharply, experts say.
Although Japan’s vaccination program was slow and began late, they picked up the pace in May as the government accelerated its efforts before the Olympics. Still, the pace later slowed because of the scarcity of the vaccines imported.
Approximately 23% of the Japanese are fully vaccinated, way less than the degree believed necessary to have herd immunity.
Infections in Tokyo are likely to worsen even more in the coming weeks, experts warned on Wednesday.