Tokyo Sets Daily Record for COVID-19 Cases Days After Olympics Opening
Tokyo set a daily record for new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, five days after the Summer Olympics began in the Japanese capital.
The city reported 2,848 new infections, topping the previous daily record of 2,520 set on Jan. 7. The latest total included cases recorded early this week following a four-day holiday weekend linked to the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.
The more than 50,000 athletes and support staff that have descended upon Japan for the Olympics aren’t thought to have driven the current high infection numbers, since a large number of the delegations arrived in Tokyo just recently and the Japanese government has done its best to keep them isolated from the general public.
But Japanese health experts, many of whom advocated for the Games to be further postponed until more of the local population was vaccinated, warned of just such an uptick, arguing that the more contagious Delta variant posed a new threat, and that carrying on with the Games despite the health risks would be sending a dangerous message to an increasingly restrictions-weary Japanese public.
As of Monday, Tokyo had more COVID-19 cases per capita than New York City due to the wide gap in vaccination rates between the two cities. Japan as a whole, however, still has about one-fifth the U.S. level of infections on a per-capita basis, according to Our World in Data, a website that compiles COVID-19 information.
As of Wednesday, just 25.7 percent of the Japanese public was fully vaccinated. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases has estimated that almost all COVID-19 cases in the capital will be caused by the Delta variant by the end of August.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said canceling the Olympics midway through in response to the surge in infections wasn’t an option. He instead urged the public to “avoid unnecessary trips outside the home and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on television.”
Public resistance to the Games in Japan has softened slightly now that they are underway, but local polling continues to show that about half of residents believe the event shouldn’t be taking place amid a health crisis.