COVID-19 cases in Tokyo are now rising faster than at any time in the pandemic but Japanese authorities are resisting renewed calls for the Olympics to be suspended.
The Japanese capital reported 2,848 cases on Tuesday, which is a record number and 149% higher than the previous week’s average.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has encouraged people to work from home in Tokyo and avoid non-essential outings but insisted there was no need to consider suspending the Olympic Games.
It isn’t yet clear how much direct impact the Olympics have had on the figures but public health expert in Tokyo, Professor Kenji Shibuya, told Sky News that the case load was rising fast.
“It is driven by the Delta variant” he told Sky News. “To me, in terms of pace, it is faster than we expected.”
“I cannot simply attribute everything to the Olympic Games but I think definitely it is one of the factors.
“People are divided, on the one hand we like to embrace the Games and the athletes and congratulate them, but on the other we are very, very concerned about the current COVID situation.”
“With that figure today, people will see the reality again and I think people should be getting more serious about what to do.”
Since the start of the Games, crowds have turned out to support athletes in the publicly accessible events like the cycling road race and the triathlon.
Any spread of infections among people at those events is unlikely to yet be shown in the statistics.
So far, Japan’s athletes have won 10 gold medals and people have gathered to watch the sporting action.
Amongst Games participants, 162 people have tested positive for COVID and have been told to isolate.
The number of positive cases remains a very small percentage of the tens of thousands of people who have arrived in Japan to take part in the Games.
Tokyo is still under a COVID state of emergency, meaning restaurants and bars are not supposed to serve alcohol and a loosely enforced 8pm curfew is in place.
Team GB has made their best-ever start to the Olympic Games with 13 medals so far, including Tom Dean from Maidenhead who overcame COVID-19 twice last year to win a swimming gold.
But the gamble of Tokyo 2020 is the impact that it will have on the host nation.
Bringing people from around the world together, even without spectators inside venues, is still the great unknown quantity of these Olympics.
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