Tokyo Officials Worry as COVID Cases Up07/29 06:10
TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese officials sounded the alarm Thursday as Tokyo
reported record-breaking coronavirus cases for the third straight day with the
Olympics well underway.
"We have never experienced the expansion of the infections of this
magnitude," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters. He said the
new cases were soaring not only in the Tokyo area but across the country.
Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and
double the numbers a week ago, setting an all-time high since the pandemic
began early last year.
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its
seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people
nationwide and 88 in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry. This compares to
18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India, according to data
from Johns Hopkins University.
"While almost nothing is helping to slow the infections, there are many
factors that can accelerate them," said Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government
medical adviser, noting the Olympics and summer vacation. "The biggest risk is
the lack of a sense of crisis and without it, the infections will further
expand and put medical systems under severe strain."
Tokyo has been under its fourth state of emergency since July 12, ahead of
the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and
concern that they Games could worsen the outbreak.
People are still roaming the streets despite stay-at-home requests, making
the measures largely ineffective at a time the more infectious delta strain is
spreading, he said. "We have never seen the infections spread so rapidly."
Alarmed by the surge in Tokyo, the governors of three prefectures adjacent
to the capital said they plan to ask Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to place
their areas under the state of emergency too.
Tokyo officials said Thursday that two foreign Olympic athletes are
currently hospitalized and 38 others are self-isolating at designated hotels in
Gov. Yuriko Koike urged the organizers to make sure not to burden Tokyo's
Japan's vaccine minister, Taro Kono, said in an interview with The
Associated Press on Wednesday that there is no evidence of the coronavirus
spreading from Olympic participants to the general public.
"I don't think there have been any cases related to the Olympic Games. So we
aren't worried about that issue," he said.
Koike said the medical system was under severe stress, and noted that
experts have projected cases in Tokyo could exceed 4,500 a day by mid-August.
Nationwide, Japan reported more than 9,500 confirmed cases, also a record,
on Wednesday for a total of about 892,000, with about 15,000 deaths.
Koike noted that young adults in their 30s or younger dominate recent cases
and reminded them of following basic anti-virus measures including mask-wearing
and avoiding having parties. "I would like young people to be aware that the
delta strain is a very tough, dangerous enemy," she said.
She also urged those below 64, who are largely unvaccinated, to get their
shots as soon as their turn comes.
As of Wednesday, 26.3% of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated.
The percentage of the elderly who are fully vaccinated is 70%, or 24.8 million
Dr. Norio Ohmagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center,
said Tokyo's surge is "heading toward an explosive expansion we have never
Dr. Masataka Inokuchi, another expert on the Tokyo metropolitan COVID-19
panel, said the rapid increase of patients is beginning to force hospitals to
postpone scheduled surgical operations and reduce other treatment. Thousands of
people who tested positive are now staying at home or designated hotels while
waiting for hospital beds.