Tokyo reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, days after the Olympics began. The Japanese capital reported 2,848 new COVID-19 cases, exceeding the earlier record of 2,520 cases on Jan. 7.
It brings Tokyo’s total to more than 200,000 since the pandemic began last year.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged people to avoid non-essential outings but said there is no need to consider a suspension of the Games. His government pushed to inoculate more people before the Olympics began, and the pace of vaccinations rose sharply in May for several weeks as the supply of imported vaccines stabilized,
Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency, which is to continue through the Olympics until just before the Paralympics start in late August. Experts had warned the more contagious delta variant could cause a surge during the Olympics.
They noted that cases among younger, unvaccinated people are rising sharply as Japan’s inoculation drive loses steam due to supply uncertainty. Many serious cases involve those in their 50s. They now dominate Tokyo’s nearly 3,000 hospitalized patients and are gradually filling up available beds.
Kenji Shibuya, a former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, said it was impossible to quantify to what extent the Olympics contributed to the surge but blamed the global sports showpiece as “one of the major driving forces.”
“The government has sent signals that people are supposed to stay home at the same time they celebrate the Games. It’s a totally inconsistent message,” said Shibuya, who is now running the vaccine rollout in a town in northern Japan.
The government says 25.5 per cent of Japanese have been fully vaccinated, still way short of the level believed to have any meaningful impact on reducing the risk for the general population.
Still, Japan has kept its cases and deaths much lower than many other countries. Nationwide, it has reported 870,445 cases and 15,129 deaths as of Monday.
Nationwide, Japan reported 5,020 daily cases Monday for a total of 870,445 and 15,129 confirmed deaths.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Tuesday evening, more than 195.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to an online coronavirus tracker from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.1 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia has the most confirmed daily cases, and airport records show thousands of foreigners have left in recent weeks.
The exodus is apparently spurred by a pandemic wave and general shortage of vaccines, which have gone to high-priority groups first.
Indonesia’s confirmed daily death toll surpassed 2,000 for the first time on Tuesday, hitting 2,069. The country’s Health Ministry reported 45,203 daily cases as the health system struggles to cope, and even patients fortunate enough to get a hospital bed are not guaranteed oxygen.
Nearly 19,000 foreign nationals have left through the airport in the capital since early this month. Airport records released Tuesday showed the number of foreigners leaving the capital increased significantly in the past three days alone.
In Africa, Libya’s government imposed a two-week curfew in some local councils amid an increase in COVID-19 cases.
In the Middle East, Iran has recorded more than 34,900 new coronavirus infections, setting the nation’s single-day record for cases.
The alarming spread of the delta variant prompted new anti-virus restrictions last week. The government ordered the closure of state offices, public places and non-essential businesses in the capital Tehran. But as with previous government measures, the lockdown looked very little like a lockdown at all. Tehran’s malls and markets were busy as usual, and workers crowded offices and metro stations.
Iranian health authorities recorded 357 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the confirmed total death toll to 89,479 — the highest in the Middle East.
In the Americas, political leaders in California and New York City have ordered government workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face regular tests, while U.S. President Joe Biden pushed for people with long-term symptoms to be protected against discrimination.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, updated its guidance on mask-wearing Tuesday. In areas of high COVID-19 transmission, everyone, including those fully vaccinated, should wear masks in indoor public places, the CDC said.
Its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said new data shows a small number of vaccinated people can still get infected with COVID-19, and they can infect others.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus is “under consideration.”
Biden is to announce on Thursday that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be required to submit to regular testing, CNN reported on Tuesday, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.
Canada’s largest airport is no longer splitting arriving international passengers into different customs lines based on their vaccination status. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport announced last week it may be sorting travellers arriving from the U.S. or other international locations into vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated queues.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said that “with enough doses for everyone” in the country, “there are no more excuses to not get your shot.”
His comments came as Canada hit an important vaccination milestone ahead of schedule.
A total of more than 66 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in the country, enough to fully inoculate every eligible Canadian.
According to the government’s most recent data released last Friday, 57.45 per cent of Canadians 12 and over are fully vaccinated, and 79.66 per cent have received at least one dose.
In Europe, Britain is easing coronavirus quarantine rules for essential workers, including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors, in an attempt to end staff shortages.
About 26 million Britons have downloaded a phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The system has caused employee absences and led to gaps on supermarket shelves. The U.K. has recently recorded tens of thousands of new virus cases a day. The government says many key workers can now be tested daily instead of self-isolating.
Cases have fallen for six straight days, with Monday’s figure of 24,950 confirmed infections down more than a third from a week earlier. Britain has given 70 per cent of adults both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s chief executive says the 27-nation bloc has achieved its goal of providing at least one coronavirus vaccine shot to 70 per cent of all adults, but she’s urging people to protect themselves against the fast-spreading delta variant.
The EU, home to about 450 million people, was widely criticized for the slow pace of its vaccine rollout earlier this year. But its executive branch, the European Commission, says that 57 per cent of adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that “these figures put Europe among the world leaders” when it comes to vaccination rates. Von der Leyen said “the catch-up process has been very successful,” but she warned against complacency given the well-established presence in Europe of the delta variant.
“The delta variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone — who has the opportunity — to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others,” she said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters and The Canadian Press, last updated at 9 p.m. ET