Home >Politics >News >Tokyo sets daily record for covid-19 cases as Olympics roll on

Tokyo on Tuesday set a daily record for Covid-19 cases, reporting 2,848 new infections on the fifth day of the Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital.

The record is unlikely to be related to the arrival of some 50,000 athletes and others for the Olympics, since many landed in Tokyo just last week and the visitors have been largely separated from the general population.

Nonetheless, it highlights the reason many people in Japan felt uneasy about hosting the Games, which were delayed by a year by the virus. All Olympics events in Tokyo are being held without spectators.

The number of new cases Tuesday surpassed the previous daily record of 2,520 set on Jan. 7. The latest tally included cases recorded early this week after a four-day holiday weekend tied to Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo.

As in other countries, the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus has been driving an increase in cases in Japan, although the number is smaller than other countries experiencing Delta-related surges.

As of Monday, the number of daily new cases in Japan was about one-fifth the U.S. level on a per-capita basis, averaged over the past week, according to Our World in Data, a website that tabulates Covid-19 data. Japan was running at less than one-tenth the U.K. level. But Tokyo has slightly more cases per capita than New York City, owing to the latter’s high vaccination rate for all ages.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases estimated that the Delta variant accounted for 64% of all positive cases in Tokyo as of July 19. The institute says almost all cases in Tokyo and surrounding areas will be caused by the Delta variant by the end of August.

Thanks to vaccination of the elderly population, relatively few people are dying of Covid-19 in Japan, a situation that may make policy makers more reluctant to introduce new restrictions on daily life.

As of Tuesday, more than two-thirds of Japanese age 65 or older were fully vaccinated, and the number of Covid-19 deaths has been running in the single or low double digits in recent days. The number of serious cases is less than half the peak in May.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he wasn’t worried about the new Tokyo numbers affecting the Olympics. “I would like to ask everyone to avoid unnecessary trips outside the home and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on television," Mr. Suga said.

Tokyo is already under a state of emergency that took effect July 12. It is set to last until Aug. 22, two weeks after the Olympics end, and the government’s legal ability to set further restrictions is limited.

Under the state of emergency, most restrictions are voluntary. Restaurants are encouraged to close early and refrain from serving alcohol, and they get incentives to do so. Yet many find it more profitable to stay open. In some nightlife areas of Tokyo, bars and restaurants are serving alcohol until late at night to packed houses of customers who remove their masks to drink and talk.

Hiroshi Yotsuyanagi, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science who specializes in infectious diseases, said it was getting harder to persuade people that restrictions on everyday activities were needed. “It might be OK to lock down if people knew that it would end the pandemic, but it isn’t going to do that. It will likely continue with ups and downs," Dr. Yotsuyanagi said.

He added that a stricter lockdown might not be good for the nation’s mental health. “It is difficult to keep children completely at home during summer vacation," he said.

Still, he said Japan should try to limit nighttime activities more thoroughly and tell people to avoid the three Cs—closed spaces, crowded spaces and close contact.

Only about a quarter of the total population in Japan is vaccinated, and doctors said that getting that number up quickly—as Mr. Suga’s government has been doing after a slow start—was critical.

“Vaccination is the most effective prevention measure" to counter the Delta variant, said Tohru Kakuta, vice president of the Tokyo Medical Association. “There is the risk that even if you avoid the three Cs, wear a mask and wash your hands properly, you could still get it because of its high infectivity."

In Tokyo, people in their 20s and 30s account for more than half of new cases. “There is a lack of risk awareness among the younger generation because they don’t think they would get seriously sick," Dr. Kakuta said.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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