The Delta variant, holidays and the Olympics are contributing to a rise in infections, the country’s top adviser warned.
Tokyo has reported 5,042 new daily coronavirus cases, hitting a record since the pandemic began as COVID-19 infections surge in the Japanese capital hosting the Olympics.
The additional cases announced on Thursday brought the total for Tokyo to 236,138. Nationwide, Japan has so far registered a total of 980,728 cases and 15,247 deaths.
Al Jazeera’s Andy Richardson, reporting from Tokyo, said the nearly double numbers since last week show how quickly the situation was escalating in the city.
“There is a growing sense of frustration among many people we have spoken to here. The vaccination rollout was slow … That’s having an impact now with the new Delta variant of the coronavirus surging all over the country,” he said.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July, and four other areas have since been added and extended until August 31.
But the measures, basically a ban on alcohol in restaurants and bars and their shorter hours, are increasingly ignored by the public, which has become tired of restrictions.
“The state of emergency in itself is a bit of an oxymoron because it’s not a law or an order. It’s a request for people to perhaps stay at home, work from home if they can,” Richardson said.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, people are not adhering to those requests when the same government is also carrying on with the Olympics.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has denied that the Olympics have caused a rise in infections.
Alarmed by the pace of the spread, some experts have called for the current state of emergency in Tokyo and five other areas to be expanded nationwide.
Instead, Suga on Thursday announced a milder version of the emergency measures in eight prefectures, including Fukushima in the east and Kumamoto in the south.
Experts at a Tokyo metropolitan government panel cautioned that infections propelled by the more contagious Delta variant have become “explosive” and could exceed 10,000 cases a day in two weeks.
Tokyo resident Ryutaro Nagasaka said the rise in coronavirus cases is worrisome, especially after he lost his job last year due to downsizing.
“I do think that there is no sense of crisis among the younger people, but more needs to be done instead of just asking people not to go out,” Nagasaka told the Associated Press.
“The government needs to cooperate with some sort of measures so that people can stay at home, or give subsidies to support the economy, to shop on the internet and such. If they did such things, I think it would make a difference [on people going out],” he added.
Sayaka Ueda, another Tokyo resident, said the government could have done more to prevent the spread of infection by taking stricter measures.
“They had a year to take care of it, especially with people from around the world coming into the country, and they honestly have not taken any action,” said Ueda. “They look like they’re taking action but they’re really not, so yeah I’m worried I guess, angry more, maybe.”