(AP) — Tokyo reached a six-month high in new COVID-19
cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics
begin, as fears grow of an outbreak during the Games.
The 1,979 new cases recorded on Thursday are the most since 2,044 on Jan. 15.
Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo on July 12, but daily cases have risen sharply since then.
The emergency measures, which primarily include a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants
and bars, will be in effect until August 22, after the Olympics conclude on August 8.
Since the pandemic
has reported approximately 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths
, the majority of which have occurred this year; however, the number of cases and deaths as a percentage of the population is significantly lower than in many other countries.
The Olympics, which had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, will begin on Friday, with spectators barred from all venues in the Tokyo area and only a few outlying sites allowing limited audiences.
Suga's government has been chastised for putting the Olympics ahead of the nation's health; his public support ratings have fallen to around 30% in recent media
polls, and there has been little excitement in the run-up to the Games. On Thursday, the director of the opening ceremony
, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired over a past Holocaust
Suga will meet with U.S. first lady Jill Biden
on Thursday and have dinner at the state guest house
, while World Health Organization
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
will pay him a visit earlier in the day.
Also on Thursday, Emperor Naruhito
received a courtesy visit from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach
at the Imperial Palace. Naruhito expressed his hope that all athletes compete in good health and achieve their best performances, while Bach stated that the Olympic community is doing everything possible to avoid posing any risk to the Japanese.
According to experts, the number of unvaccinated people
under the age of 50 who are infected with a virus is rapidly increasing.
in Japan started late and slowly, but the pace picked up in May as the government pushed to accelerate the drive before the Olympics, though the pace has since slowed due to a shortage of imported vaccines
About 23% of Japanese people are fully vaccinated, which falls far short of the level thought to be required to have any meaningful effect on lowering risk in the general population.
On Wednesday, experts predicted that infections in Tokyo would worsen in the coming weeks.