New records set in Japan – at the Olympics, but also in Covid-19 infections

Daily Covid-19 case tallies have been hitting new unwelcome heights. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Records are tumbling in Japan and not just at the Olympic Games.

Daily Covid-19 case tallies have been hitting new unwelcome heights, with seven out of 47 prefectures cracking new highs on Wednesday (July 28) and the nationwide total reaching 9,576 cases. This is 20 per cent higher than the previous record of 7,957 cases, which was set on Jan 8.

Japan is in the throes of a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, driven by the contagious Delta mutation that is now the main variant in circulation.

Dr Shigeru Omi, who heads the government's expert panel, said that the spike is threatening to overwhelm medical services beyond was experienced in previous waves which pushed hospitals to the brink.

All four prefectures in the Greater Tokyo region, where the bulk of Olympic events are being held - Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama - each set fresh daily highs.

This may further complicate the tortuous relationship that Tokyo residents have with the Games. While public sentiment has largely shifted from antipathy to apathy and even a hushed sense of fervour amid the country's gold rush, there are anxieties that imported cases are slipping through, with the "bubble" not watertight enough.

Tokyo broke its daily high for the second straight day with 3,177 cases, one day after reaching the previous peak of 2,848 cases on Tuesday.

But just 95 cases on Wednesday - or 3 per cent - are senior citizens and, despite the recent surge, 80 patients were in severe condition.

This has been credited to a majority of the elderly having been vaccinated.

At the same time, medical experts have noted that emergency measures in Tokyo have failed to curb public movement. It has been two weeks since Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency on July 12, yet infections are showing a worrying upward trend when they should be starting to taper off instead.

The seven-day moving average has surged by 53 per cent from last week.

Elsewhere, the governors of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama jointly said that they will submit on Thursday a formal request to the national government to declare a state of emergency for their prefectures.

Kanagawa, to the south of Tokyo, breached the four-digit mark for the first time on Wednesday by adding 1,051 cases. Saitama, to the north of the capital, set a new high of 870 cases one day after it rewrote its previous high with 593 cases. Chiba, to the east, also had a new peak of 593 cases.

Mr Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Covid-19 countermeasures, said the government will "promptly" consider their request.

And while the Greater Tokyo region is the epicentre of the fifth wave, records are also being set elsewhere.

New highs were recorded on Wednesday in Ibaraki, north-east of Tokyo, with 194 cases, Ishikawa in central Japan with 119 cases, and Kyoto in western Japan with 175 infections.

Dr Omi, who once made headlines for saying that it was "not normal" for the Olympics to be held during the pandemic, on Wednesday said more must be done before the situation spirals out of control.

"The government should be sending out a message that gets across the sense of crisis that people should be feeling, and take countermeasures fitting of the current infection situation," he said.

This comes a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had said, contrary to evidence, that people have been going out less and as such there was "no need to worry" about the Games taking place.

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