Japan witnesses unease, protests a week before Olympic Games

By Antonio Hermosín Gandul

Tokyo, Jul 16 (EFE).- A fresh surge in Covid-19 infections in Tokyo has stoked concerns over the Olympic Games just a week before the event is set to kick off, even as Japanese citizens have expressed their discontent with protests.

The Japanese capital on Friday reported 1,271 fresh infections, marking the third consecutive with over a thousand daily cases, while Thursday had witnessed the highest number of cases in six months.

The Covid spike comes just ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, set to be inaugurated on Jul. 23, amid the popular sentiment turning strongly against the Games, with fears that the event could become an infection hotspot as thousands of participants arrive from abroad.

Infections have been rising in Tokyo despite a fresh state of emergency being enforced from Monday, with the opening hours of bars and restaurants being cut down and a ban on selling alcohol.

However, the restrictions have not been implemented strictly and have proved insufficient to check the spread of the virus, which has mainly affected people younger than 40 in the latest surge.

Vaccination has progressed at a sluggish pace, with less than 20 percent of the population being fully vaccinated.

With just around 54 percent of the people older than 65 vaccinated so far, the government is unlikely to meet its goal of immunizing everyone in this age group before the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday that the government would take “firm” measure to check infections and protect the citizens, also reiterating his promise of holding “safe” Olympics.

He stressed that the Games would be held amid unprecedented restrictions, with all foreign participants set to undergo multiple tests on arrival and face restrictions on their movement in Japan as well as constant surveillance.

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