July 28 (UPI) — On a day Tokyo recorded its highest-ever total in new COVID-19 cases, its governor Yuriko Koike called for younger people on Wednesday to get vaccinated and for citizens to stay home as much as possible during the Olympic Games.
“It is important to expedite the rollout of the vaccination program among the young people and middle-aged population in Tokyo,” Koike said at a press briefing held online.
Tokyo reported 3,177 daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, topping the record of 2,848 cases from just one day before. The figures surpassed the previous one-day high of 2,520 cases, set back in January.
The city remains in a state of emergency as it hosts the Summer Olympics, which kicked off on Friday. No spectators are allowed at most of the venues during the Games.
Koike said Wednesday that 26% of the total population of Tokyo has been fully vaccinated, while some 68.3% of those above 65 years old have been fully inoculated. More than half of the new infections in Tokyo on Tuesday came among people in their 20s and 30s, according to the metropolitan government.
The governor said that Japan is ramping up its vaccine rollout “at top speed” and urged citizens, especially younger ones, to maintain social distancing in the meantime to beat back the latest surge.
“While the effect of the vaccination becomes clear in a reduced number of positive cases, we continue to ask for people’s cooperation in terms of refraining from going out,” Koike said. “Stay home to cheer the athletes participating in the Olympic Games.”
Infection rates have remained relatively low among Olympic athletes and delegations from around the world. Organizers announced on Wednesday that 16 more people associated with the Games tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the month to 169. None of the new cases reported Wednesday were athletes.
Three prefectures bordering Tokyo — Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa — are planning to ask the Japanese government to place them under a state of emergency amid rising cases, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday that canceling the Olympics due to the surge in cases was not being considered.
“There is no such concern because the flow of people is decreasing,” Suga told reporters, citing the impact of vehicle restrictions and work-from-home policies.
Japan’s nationwide tally of infections hit 7,629 on Tuesday, the most since Jan. 9. The country’s total caseload stands at 875,506 cases, with 15,137 deaths.
Gov. Koike pointed out on Wednesday that Japan’s coronavirus caseload remains much lower than many other countries, such as those in the Americas and Europe.
“Compare the Japanese statistics with the other countries in terms of the daily number of newly positive patients and number of the deaths, and Japan is at the bottom of the chart,” she said.
The Games have been unpopular with the Japanese public, with 55% saying they opposed holding the Olympics and 68% doubting they can be held safely, according to a poll last week by the Asahi Shimbun.