With the beginning of the Olympics eight days away, new coronavirus cases in Tokyo surged to a six-month high on Thursday, raising fears that hospitals could become overcrowded during the Games.
Tokyo’s caseload reached 1,308 on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. That tally is the highest since 1,485 cases were recorded on Jan. 21, and it displays another sharp rise after 1,149 cases were recorded Wednesday.
Tokyo began a state of emergency Monday — the fourth of the pandemic — with new restrictions that include restaurants and bars closing early and the inability to serve alcohol throughout the duration of the Olympics. Spectators won’t be allowed at Olympic venues in and around Tokyo for the Games, which start July 23 and run through Aug. 8.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the most serious coronavirus cases and hospitalizations were from people who are in their 50s or younger and unvaccinated; much of the elderly population in Japan has been vaccinated. But Japan’s vaccine rollout has been slow going, even with an increase since May. The AP reports that 19.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Koike urged people to “stay on alert,” according to AP, emphasizing that people must avoid large gatherings and practice other anti-infection measures “to overcome this very difficult situation.”