Tokyo saw a sharp rise in its number of coronavirus infections after officials reported 2,848 new cases Tuesday — the city’s highest ever daily count — as it struggles to contain a record-breaking resurgence just days after the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
The previous record in the capital was on Jan. 7, when officials announced 2,520. The figure announced Tuesday doubled the 1,387 cases reported the same day one week earlier.
The growing wave is adding to long-held concerns over the public health risks of hosting the Tokyo Games.
“We ask that residents stay indoors and avoid all unnecessary travel,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tuesday evening. “We also ask that everyone watch the Tokyo Games from their own homes.”
The delta variant is spreading rapidly, Suga said, adding that people in their 30s accounted for 70% of new cases nationwide on Tuesday and an increasing number of people in their 40s and 50s are requiring hospitalization after becoming infected.
Other prefectures reported record-breaking figures, with Okinawa seeing 334 cases and Saitama logging 593 on Tuesday.
Media tallies on Tuesday evening said the country was set to report at least 7,000 cases nationwide, the most since mid-May.
In Tokyo, people in their 20s accounted for about a third of the cases on Tuesday, while overall people younger than 60 accounted for 91% of the total.
Calls made to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s fever hotline reached 3,303 on Sunday, topping 3,000 for the fourth consecutive day and surpassing the number of calls the city saw during the country’s third wave at the turn of the year.
While fatalities remain relatively low, the number of severely ill patients in Tokyo rose to 82 on Tuesday, a marginal but nonetheless concerning increase from the 78 the city saw on Monday.
The country has experienced four waves and three states of emergency. A fourth state of emergency is now active in two places — Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture — until mid-August, and the country appears to be in the midst of a fifth wave.
With the effectiveness of states of emergency dwindling, the country is losing its strongest weapon against the coronavirus. New cases are emerging at a faster rate and across a growing number of prefectures, and it’s not clear what else the country can do to stifle the contagion.
This outbreak — which began in Tokyo just days after its third state of emergency ended on June 20 — has seen young people represent a larger proportion of cases and more patients with severe symptoms who require hospital treatment.
With the viral surge escalating in the capital’s neighboring prefectures, calls have grown for a state of emergency in Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.
Infections among people living together and coworkers sharing the same office space continue to account for the largest portion of traceable new cases.
Experts warned in late June that the capital could be set for another wave — one fueled by deadlier variants and exacerbated by the apathy of a fatigued population made noncompliant by disjointed and unchanging attempts to contain the virus.
UPDATED: An earlier version of this story by Jiji Press, citing government sources, stated that COVID-19 cases in Tokyo were set to exceed 3,000 on Tuesday.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.