Torchbearers for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics ran through an empty park in Osaka Prefecture on Tuesday, the first of more than 200 runners who will carry the Olympic flame around the course over a span of two days after the flame relay was rerouted from public roads due to a sharp rebound in COVID-19 infections.

Osaka Prefecture confirmed a record 1,099 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, topping the 1,000 mark for the first time. Neighboring Hyogo also confirmed a fresh high of 391 cases, while Tokyo logged 510 infections.

The government is considering allowing COVID-19 quasi-emergency steps to be taken in the central prefecture of Aichi, which is also facing a sharp rise in new infections. The government will also examine whether special measures should be implemented in Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, sources said.

Olympic Torch carried through quiet Osaka | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Olympic Torch carried through quiet Osaka | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures were on Friday granted the authority to order places serving food and alcohol in targeted areas to close by 8 p.m. Owners of restaurants and bars in the three areas are understandably frustrated, having only recently been told they could open later again.

With a survey revealing, somewhat unsurprisingly, that people are itching to start dining out and travelling again, there is also concern the new measures will just be ignored. “I don’t think they mean anything because the number of infections haven’t declined in Osaka, where the steps have already been taken,” one Tokyo high school student tells Jiji.

Tuesday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Osaka 1,099 (719), Tokyo 510 (399), Hyogo 391 (276), Aichi 168 (112), Saitama 156 (116), Kanagawa 114 (100), Okinawa 125 (98), Fukuoka 72 (51), Miyagi 72 (103), Nara 62 (78), Chiba 62 (62), Kyoto 61 (55), Hokkaido 60 (63). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker