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Coronavirus

Tokyo reports record daily spike in COVID cases amid Olympics

Suga urges people to cheer at home, dismissing the possibility of cancellation

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says she is asking hospitals to set aside more beds for COVID-19 patients as the Olympic host city grapples with spreading infections.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Daily COVID-19 cases in Tokyo on Tuesday hit a record high, with 2,848 new infections, in a sign of a growing outbreak even as the Olympics take place in the Japanese capital despite the state of emergency.

The surge in infections has prompted Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to urge people to watch the Olympics Games on TV at home. "Delta variant is rapidly spreading," Suga warned on Tuesday. But Suga denied the possibility of canceling the Games.

Tokyo is in the midst of a state of emergency that was declared on July 12. Last week, the first-ever postponed Olympics began without spectators.

Tokyo also reported on Tuesday two new deaths and 82 severely ill patients due to COVID. The number of severely ill patients was down from 160 on Jan. 20, as more elderly people, who are more likely to suffer severely, get vaccinated.

With the jump on Tuesday, the seven-day average of new cases in the capital is now 1,762, up 49.4% from a week ago. The previous daily high for the city was on 2,520, recorded on Jan. 7.

Record-breaking new infections on Tuesday signal a resurgence of the virus and a further rise in COVID cases during the Olympics, partly due to the fast-spreading delta variant.

Most Olympic events are being held without spectators to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Organizers will soon decide on spectator limits for the Paralympic Games, which are set to begin on Aug. 24 after the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Although organizers are seeking to hold the Games with spectators, the rising number of COVID cases is casting a shadow over those plans.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said earlier on Tuesday the Metropolitan Government was asking hospitals to prepare more beds for COVID-19 patients as the Olympic host city grapples with spreading infections. Koike stressed, "It is important for young people to get vaccinated."

The virus is spreading relatively rapidly among young people, with 951 cases on Tuesday for people in their 20s, 610 in their 30s and 466 in their 40s, while there were only 78 cases among those over 65 years old.

With Tokyo in a state of emergency since the middle of July, COVID infection levels in the city are at their highest so far. (Photo by Taro Saeki)

The resurgence in infections is thought to be due, in part, to people tiring of COVID restrictions and letting down their guard. As many bars and restaurants owners complain about delays in government financial support, some have resumed normal operations despite authorities' requests that they shorten business hours.

The fourth state of emergency also failed to persuade young people to stay home. At some outdoor Olympic events such as the triathlon, many spectators gathered despite organizers' pleas that people watch the Games at home.

According to Olympic organizers, 155 positive cases connected to the Games have been reported between July 1 and July 27, 18 of whom are athletes. "This is the most tested -- and possibly even the most vaccinated [event] ... anywhere in the world," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams stressed on Tuesday.

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