TOKYO – Authorities in Japan's capital reported nearly 500 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, the largest daily increase in Tokyo since the pandemic began, amid a nationwide spike in infections and as the country discusses with Olympic officials how to safely host next summer’s games.
The Tokyo metropolitan government said there were 493 new cases, surpassing the city's previous high of 472 recorded on Aug. 1 during the peak of Japan's earlier wave of infections.
The new cases came as International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach ended a visit to Japan to discuss how to safely host the games, which were postponed a year until next July due to the pandemic.
Japan has seen a steady climb in new cases nationwide in recent weeks, and experts have urged officials to step up preventive measures.
Wednesday's surge, from 293 the day before, raised alarm among experts ahead of an upcoming three-day weekend. With new cases in some other areas also rising to new highs, Japan's national increase is expected to top 2,000 on Wednesday for a new high.
Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa urged Tokyo residents to stay home over the weekend.
“Please do not get used to the coronavirus. Please do not underestimate the coronavirus. I ask everyone to have a three-day autumn weekend of patience," Nakagawa said, urging everyone to avoid non-essential outings. He cautioned that another state of emergency may be needed if infections continue rising.
Government officials currently are not taking any specific measures to scale back business activity.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike expressed concern about the rising number of elderly patients, but merely asked residents to stick to their usual preventative measures.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week said the situation does not currently require another state of emergency and there is no need to scale back or suspend domestic tourism and dining campaigns promoted by the government.
Japan declared a state of emergency in April and May, making nonbinding stay-at-home and business closure requests. It has managed to prevent infections from becoming as explosive as in Europe and the U.S.
Experts say the wide use of face masks and other common preventative measures, as well as cultural traditions that lack touching and kissing, might have helped keep the country's caseload low.
Bach on Tuesday issued a gentle plea to all competitors to get vaccinated before the Olympics, if a vaccine is available, to protect themselves and others. He also said a “reasonable number” of fans should be able to attend the games with or without a vaccine.
Japan has confirmed 120,815 cases overall, including 1,913 deaths, according to the health ministry.
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