Tokyo new virus cases near 2,000 a day before Olympics open

Tokyo has hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games

Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then.

The emergency measures, which largely involve a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants and bars, are to last until Aug. 22, after the Olympics end on Aug. 8.

Japan has reported about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began, most of them this year. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population are much lower than in many other countries.

The Olympics, delayed for a year by the pandemic, begin Friday. Spectators are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area, with limited audiences allowed at a few outlying sites.

Also Thursday, Emperor Naruhito received a courtesy visit from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at the Imperial Palace.

Experts say virus infections among unvaccinated people younger than age 50 are rising sharply.

Experts warned on Wednesday that infections in Tokyo are likely to continue to worsen in coming weeks.

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