• Jiji, Kyodo

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COVID-19 infections have decreased among older people in Japan who are fully vaccinated, according to a health ministry panel, while the nation is experiencing a rapid increase in new cases among younger demographic.

An analysis of new infection cases over the 11 days through July 15 found that 0.9 people per 100,000 population caught the virus among fully vaccinated people age 65 or over, while the number was 13.0 among unvaccinated people in the same age group.

The results, presented at a meeting Wednesday, are the first nationwide data showing the possible impact of COVID-19 vaccinations on infections that were made available by the advisory team.

The share of people age 65 or over in all new coronavirus cases has also dropped in Tokyo. The share stood at 3.7% over the week through Monday, down from 21.9% in late March before Japan began inoculating older people, according to the team.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases confirmed 130 breakthrough cases between April and June in which vaccinated people got infected. In some cases, the detected virus was still capable of infecting.

"Vaccines are effective in preventing symptoms and severe illness, but the risk of infecting others will remain," institute Director-General Takaji Wakita, chair of the advisory team, told a news conference.

Despite decreasing infections among older people, Japan is seeing a rapid spike in new cases especially in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

On Wednesday, health experts advising the Tokyo Metropolitan Government warned of a possible "critical" coronavirus situation in Tokyo, estimating that daily infections in the capital could hit a record of around 2,600 in early August during the Olympics.

The metropolitan government reported 1,832 new COVID-19 cases the same day, the highest since mid-January, as public concern remains high that the Olympics could become a superspreader event with particular concern about the transmission of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

The experts said the seven-day moving average of new infections could reach a record level on Aug. 3 if the virus continues to spread at the current pace.

"In less than two weeks, the situation in Tokyo will be critical far beyond the third wave," the experts said in the estimate, updated from last week when they said the moving average could increase to around 2,400 on Aug. 11.

The capital marked its current record of 2,520 daily infections on Jan. 7.

"The fifth wave (of the virus) is already under way," Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said at a news conference Wednesday.

The Tokyo Medical Association said the number of COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized in Tokyo totaled about 2,400 as of Tuesday, almost double the figure seen in late June.

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