New coronavirus virus cases hit a six-month high in Tokyo, a worrying sign just a little more than a week before the city hosts the Olympics.
Cases in the capital tallied 1,308 on Thursday, the most since January, when the capital was experiencing its worst wave of infections, hitting a daily record of 2,520 new cases.
The surge comes as International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is visiting Japan ahead of the July 23 opening ceremony, trying to reassure residents the IOC and local government are doing all they can to reduce public health risks. The Olympics will be held without spectators for events in the Tokyo area, a first for the modern Olympic movement that dates back to the late 19th century.
The IOC chief said about 85% of the residents in the Olympic Village will arrive in Japan vaccinated and almost 100% of the IOC members and staff will be as well. He also said the medal presentation ceremony will break from tradition for safety. Instead of placing medals around the neck, the awards will be presented on a tray for the athlete to take.
While the pace of vaccinations has picked up speed in Japan, the country has the lowest inoculation rate among its peers in the Group of Seven countries. About 19% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated, well behind other G-7 members such as the U.S. at about 49%, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.