Olympics 2021: New COVID-19 cases in Tokyo surge to six-month high one week out from Games

·3-min read

New cases of COVID-19 are at a six-month high in Tokyo, where athletes are already arriving from all over the world as the Olympic Games begin in eight days, the Associated Press reported.

There were 1,308 news cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, the highest since 1,485 new cases on Jan. 21. It's also up from the 1,149 new cases the day prior.

State of COVID in Tokyo ahead of Olympics

The city is under a state of emergency that was announced exactly one week ago and is the fourth to take hold through the pandemic. It requires restaurants and bars to close early and they are not allowed to serve alcohol through the Olympics, which runs July 23 until Aug. 8.

The largest increase is serious cases and hospitalizations is among the 50-and-younger group, most of whom are unvaccinated, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said, via the AP.

“We need to stay on alert,” Koike said, urging people to minimize outings and stick to basic anti-infection measures “to overcome this very difficult situation.”

Koike said the worry is younger people will go out and party with the Olympics happening.

Case numbers have been climbing since mid-June, causing concern over having the Olympic games even with COVID-19 safety measures in place. More than 10,000 athletes, plus media members and national team personnel, are expected to arrive for the competition.

The seven-day case average fell in May and late June to fewer than 400 cases per day, but it began to slowly increase since June 18. Last week, 16 days before the Opening Ceremony, the government reported 920 new cases of COVID-19.

Vaccination rollout has been slow in Japan for many reasons. It ramped up beginning in May, but only 30 percent of the country's population is now at least partially vaccinated. An estimated 20 percent of the country will be fully vaccinated by the start of the games.

Athletes begin to arrive in Tokyo

Athletes from around the world are arriving in Tokyo with restrictions, such as team-specific "bubbles," in place. But some have run into issues.

Seven staff at an Olympic hotel in Hamamatsu City tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The Brazilian Olympic team of 31 participants is staying there, but are in a "bubble" at the hotel that is separated from other guests and have not been infected, per the report.

Eight athletes from Kenya's women's rugby team were classified as close contacts after a positive case on their flight into the city. The South African rugby team is in isolation for the same reason.

The refugee Olympic team delayed its arrival after a positive case within its party in Doha. And a masseur for the Russian women's rugby sevens team tested positive, putting the team in isolation, per RIA news agency reports.

Last week there were a few members of other country's teams that tested positive upon arrival. Ugandan athletes also had positive tests in June.

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