Tokyo (AP) — On Thursday, the day before the Olympics began, Tokyo hit another six-month high with new COVID-19 cases due to growing concerns about the exacerbation of infectious diseases during the Olympics.
Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on January 15.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who decided to hold the Olympics, declared a state of emergency in Tokyo on July 12, but the number of daily incidents has increased rapidly since then.
Emergency measures such as a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages and shortening of restaurant and bar opening hours will continue until August 22 after the Olympics end on August 8.
Japan has reported about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began, most of them this year. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a percentage of the population is much lower than in many other countries.
The Olympics, a year behind the pandemic, will begin on Friday. Audiences are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area, and some suburban sites are open to a limited number of spectators.
There are criticisms that the Suga administration prioritizes the Olympics over national health. His public support rating has dropped to about 30% in a recent media survey, with few pre-convention festivals. On Thursday, the opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired for a past Holocaust joke.
In Olympic-related diplomacy, Suga will meet with First Lady Jill Biden in the United States on Thursday and have dinner at a state guesthouse. Earlier that day, he was visited by Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes, Director of the World Health Organization.
Also on Thursday, Reigning Emperor received a courtesy call from Chairman Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee at the Imperial Palace.
According to experts, viral infections in unvaccinated people under the age of 50 are on the rise.
Vaccinations in Japan began slowly and slowly, but the pace increased in May as the government urged the government to accelerate the drive before the Olympics, although the pace slowed due to a shortage of imported vaccines.
About 23% of the Japanese are fully vaccinated, far from the levels that would be needed to have a meaningful effect on reducing the risk to the general public.
Experts warned on Wednesday that infectious diseases in Tokyo could continue to worsen in the coming weeks.