Tokyo has reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3,000 for the first time days after the start of the Olympics.
The new cases on Wednesday exceeded the earlier record of 2,848 set the previous day and bring the total for the Japanese capital to 206,745 since the pandemic began early last year.
Tokyo has been under a fourth state of emergency since July 12 ahead of the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and concern that they could further worsen the outbreak.
Experts say Tokyo’s surge is being propelled by the new, more contagious Delta variant of the virus and there is no evidence of the disease being transmitted from Olympics participants to the general public.
Nationwide, Japan reported 7,630 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 882,823.
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries but its vaccination campaign started late in comparison to other large nations and there is fear that rising cases could overwhelm hospitals.
The country’s seven-day rolling average of cases is about 3.57 per 100,000 people, compared to 2.76 in India, 17.3 in the United States and 53.1 in Britain, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Japan’s vaccine minister, Taro Kono, said on Wednesday that there was no evidence of coronavirus spreading from Olympic participants to the country’s population.
“I don’t think there have been any cases related to the Olympic Games. So we aren’t worried about that issue,” he said.
Experts expressed alarm about cases continuing to rise despite the state of emergency.
“A sense of crisis should be shared across Japanese society” to slow infections, Dr Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, said after a taskforce meeting on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike urged younger people to co-operate with measures to bring down the number of infections and get vaccinated, saying their activities were key to slowing the surge during the Olympics.
Ms Koike noted that the majority of the elderly had been fully vaccinated and infections among them had largely decreased, while mostly unvaccinated younger people were now dominating new cases.
“Younger people’s activity holds the key (to slowing the infections), and we need your co-operation,” Ms Koike said.
“Please make sure to avoid non-essential outings and observe basic anti-infection measures, and I would like younger people to get vaccinated.”
As of Tuesday, 25.5% of the Japanese population had been fully vaccinated. The percentage of the elderly who were fully vaccinated was 68.2%, or 36 million people.
There are concerns about hesitancy among the young, with surveys showing that many have doubts, in part due to false rumours about side effects.
Younger people have been blamed for heading into city centre areas after the requested closing hours for eateries and shops and spreading the virus.
The state of emergency, which is to continue through the Olympics, mainly focuses on requiring establishments to stop serving alcohol and shorten their hours. Measures for the public are only requests and are increasingly ignored.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has also urged people to avoid non-essential outings and said there was no need to consider a suspension of the Games, which are being held with no fans in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures — Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama.
The governors of the three areas, alarmed by Tokyo’s surging cases, said on Wednesday that they plan to ask Mr Suga to place their prefectures under the state of emergency too.