TOKYO: Daily Covid-19 cases in Olympic host city Tokyo hit a record high for a second straight day, topping 3,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, local media reported, as the spike in infections puts pressure on hospitals.
The sharp rise in cases may dampen domestic enthusiasm for the Games – taking place under unprecedented conditions, including a ban on spectators in most venues – despite a rush of medals for Japanese athletes.
The surge may also spell trouble for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose support ratings are at their lowest since he took office last September, ahead of a general election this year.
Governors of three prefectures near Tokyo would ask the government to declare a state of emergency for their regions, a Cabinet minister said, after daily cases hit 2,848 on Tuesday.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading Japan’s Covid-19 response, told a parliamentary panel the prefectures would ask the government to declare the emergency as early as today.
He added that daily cases were expected to rise further in coming days, as testing may have been delayed during holidays last week.
“I think we have entered a mode of sharp rises in cases,” Yuji Kuroiwa, governor of Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, said.
Kanagawa and nearby Chiba and Saitama prefectures are also seeing cases jump.
Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency which will last through the Olympics, while the other three regions are implementing looser “quasi-emergency” steps.
Yesterday, Tokyo Olympics organisers reported 16 new Games-related cases for a total of 169 since July 1. Olympic athletes, staff and media are required to follow strict rules to prevent the virus’ spread, including frequent testing.
“As a city resident and an organiser, my heart hurts that case numbers are rising (in Tokyo),” Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said.
Takaya repeated that strict measures were in place inside the “Olympic bubble”.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm dumped rain in parts of northern Japan yesterday after moving away from the Tokyo region and relieving the Olympic host city of a feared disruption to the games.
In Sendai, trains were delayed and pedestrians braced themselves against the wind on the city streets.
Tropical Storm Nepartak has caused no damage, but the Japan Meteorological Agency urged residents to take caution against mudslides. — Agencies