The fresh surge has cast a shadow over the Games, where strict protocols have kept athletes and other visitors separate from the rest of the city. Olympic organizers Thursday announced 24 new coronavirus cases linked to the Games, as well as two hospitalizations, marking the largest single-day increase of the events.
The new cases brought the total number of Olympics-related infections to 193 since July 1. In Tokyo, authorities reported a record number of new cases for the third-straight day Thursday, registering 3,865 infections.
Suga told reporters there was no connection between rising cases and the Olympic Games, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported. Still, he urged residents Thursday to watch the events from home and avoid going to restaurants or bars where the risk of infection was higher.
Experts warned of a deepening crisis that they said could quickly overwhelm the health-care system if more stringent measures are not imposed. They cited skyrocketing hospitalizations and the rate of infection among younger people.
“The greatest danger now is that the severity of the current situation isn’t being communicated to the public,” Japan’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, told a parliamentary panel Thursday.
“If that sense of urgency isn’t conveyed sufficiently, the virus will spread further and the burden on the health-care system will become increasingly severe,” he said.
The country’s largest association of doctors, the Japan Medical Association, called on people to work from home and for eligible residents to make sure they are vaccinated, CNN reported.
Just over 26 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
“We think the medical system will collapse if this spread of infection continues,” the head of the medical association, Toshio Nakagawa, said in a televised address Thursday. “We have to take all the measures to avoid the explosion of infection.”
Japan has refrained from enacting hard lockdowns to curb local outbreaks and instead relies on a generally cooperative public to adhere to health protocols such as masking and social distancing.
The state-of-emergency designation mostly generates stricter rules for restaurants and other entertainment venues, including earlier closing times. Central Tokyo, however, has remained crowded during the day, with many residents ignoring the regulations.
As a result, hospitalizations are on the rise. Authorities blame the swift-moving outbreak on the more contagious delta variant now present in at least 132 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
On Friday, the government will request an extension of the state of emergency in Tokyo and Okinawa until Aug. 31 and seek to expand the powers in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures.