Few cases involving elderly as Tokyo sets new Covid-19 record amid Olympic Games

The low proportion of cases among the elderly has been consistent throughout the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.
The low proportion of cases among the elderly has been consistent throughout the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Tokyo logged 2,848 fresh Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (July 27) in a new peak that surpasses the previous daily record of 2,520 infections on January 7.

But only 78 infections - or 2.74 per cent of the total - were senior citizens aged 65 and above, which the government is citing as proof that vaccinations work.

Nationwide, 84.6 per cent of the elderly have received their first dose in the two-shot vaccine regime, while 68.2 per cent are fully inoculated, according to Cabinet Office data on Tuesday.

The low proportion of cases among the elderly has been consistent throughout the recent spike, prompting Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to call for more youths to be vaccinated to reduce infection risks.

Still, the current surge has come despite Tokyo having been placed under a state of emergency since July 12, with the ongoing Tokyo Olympic Games being held without live spectators in the stands.

Mr Suga on Tuesday repeated his calls - which are increasingly falling on deaf ears - for the public to avoid non-essential outings. He added that there was "no chance" of the Games being scrapped at this stage despite the spike.

Ms Koike also said that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was asking hospitals to prepare more beds for Covid-19 patients.

TBS News reported that Tokyo hopes to raise the number of beds to 6,406 by next month, from the current capacity of 5,967 beds. As at Tuesday, 2,864 beds are occupied, with 82 patients in severe condition in Tokyo.

TBS also cited a notice to medical institutions which said that hospitals would be requested to delay non-essential surgeries and scale down other treatments.

The spike underscores the difficulty that the authorities are facing to get the public to treat Covid-19 more seriously, amid widespread fatigue of emergency curbs compounded by a sense that the Olympics are getting "special treatment".

Dr Koji Wada, who sits on the Health Ministry's Covid-19 advisory board, was cited by the Japan Times as saying that the risks of infection are greater now than at any point since the start of the pandemic.

The public health professor at the International University of Health and Welfare said: "And yet, people are going out, shopping and meeting friends as if the city isn't under a state of emergency."

He added: "Public officials in Tokyo and throughout the country need to speak more clearly, but the message isn't getting across because of the Olympics."

Tuesday marked the eighth straight day that Tokyo has logged more than 1,000 cases. The seven-day case average is now up 49.4 per cent from a week ago.

The tally is also more than double that of the 1,387 infections last Tuesday. Japan's media tends to use week-on-week rather than day-on-day comparisons given delays in case reporting, while fewer tests tend to be conducted on weekends.

A weekend poll jointly held by Nikkei newspaper and TV Tokyo showed that seven in 10 respondents felt that the state of emergency - which now covers Tokyo and Okinawa - was "ineffective". Tokyo is under its third emergency decree this year.

The Covid-19 surge is also evident elsewhere. Okinawa set a new record with 354 cases on Tuesday, while Osaka hit 741 infections.


Mr Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday repeated his calls for the public to avoid non-essential outings. PHOTO: REUTERS

In the Greater Tokyo region, Saitama to the north of Tokyo also registered an all-time high of 593 cases on Tuesday. Kanagawa to the south of the capital had 758 cases in the highest figure since January.

Chiba, to the east of Tokyo, added 405 cases, a day after registering a record 509 cases. Chiba Governor Toshihito Kumagai said he wants the government to declare a state of emergency over his prefecture.

Meanwhile, there have been 155 Covid-19 cases linked to the Olympics since July 1, Games organisers said on Tuesday.

While the Olympic "bubble" may not be watertight with many delegations reportedly disregarding the rules, measures to actively test and isolate Games participants appear to be working.