On Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, Tokyo saw another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases, as fears of infection worsening grow. The 1,979 new cases reported on Thursday are the most since 2,044 were reported on Jan. 15.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, declared a state of emergency in Tokyo on July 12, but daily cases have skyrocketed since then.
The emergency measures, which primarily include a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants and bars, are scheduled to last until August 22, after the Olympics conclude on August 8.
Since the pandemic began, Japan has reported approximately 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths, the majority of which have occurred this year.
Nonetheless, the number of cases and deaths as a percentage of the population is significantly lower than in many other countries. The Olympics, which had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, will begin on Friday.
Spectators are prohibited from all venues in the Tokyo area, with only a few outlying sites allowing them. Suga’s administration has been chastised for putting the Olympics ahead of the nation’s health, according to some.
In recent media polls, his public support has dropped to around 30%, and there has been little celebration in the run-up to the Games. Kentaro Kobayashi, the director of the opening ceremony, was fired on Thursday for making a Holocaust joke in the past.
Suga will meet with US First Lady Jill Biden on Thursday and have dinner at the state guest house in Olympic-related diplomacy. Earlier in the day, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus paid him a visit.
Also on Thursday, Emperor Naruhito was paid a courtesy visit at the Imperial Palace by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Naruhito expressed his hope that all athletes compete in good health and achieve their best results.
Bach stated that the Olympic community is doing everything possible to avoid endangering the Japanese. Virus infections among unvaccinated people under the age of 50 are on the rise, according to experts.
Vaccinations in Japan started late and slowly, but the pace picked up in May as the government pushed to accelerate the drive before the Olympics, though the pace has since slowed due to a shortage of imported vaccines.
About 23% of Japanese people are fully vaccinated, far short of the level thought to be required to have any meaningful effect on reducing risk in the general population. On Wednesday, experts warned that infections in Tokyo are likely to worsen in the coming weeks.