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Authorities in Japan capital reported nearly 500 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase in Tokyo since the pandemic began, amid a surge in infections nationwide and as the country discusses with Olympic officials how to safely host next summer’s games.

The Tokyo metropolitan government said there were 493 new cases, surpassing the city’s previous high of 472 recorded on August 1 during the peak of Japan’s first wave of infections.

Tokyo Japan
People wearing face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus underpass in Tokyo, November 18, 2020. (AP)
The new cases occurred when the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, ended a visit to Japan to discuss how to safely host the games, which were postponed for a year until next July due to the pandemic.

Japan has seen a steady rise in new cases across the country in recent weeks, and experts have urged officials to step up preventive measures.

Wednesday’s rise, from 293 the day before, raised alarm among experts ahead of an upcoming three-day weekend. With new cases in some other areas also rising to new highs, Japan’s national rise is expected to top 2000 on Wednesday for a new high.

The president of the Japan Medical Association, Toshio Nakagawa, urged Tokyo residents to stay home for the weekend.

“Please don’t get used to the coronavirus. Please don’t underestimate the coronavirus. I ask everyone to have a three-day fall weekend of patience,” Nakagawa said, urging everyone to avoid non-essential departures. He cautioned that another state of emergency might be necessary if infections continue to rise.

Government officials are not currently taking any specific steps to reduce business activity.

Tokyo Japan
Travelers, mostly wearing face masks, walk through the Shinagawa train station on November 18, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. (Getty)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike expressed concern about the growing number of elderly patients, but simply asked residents to stick to their usual preventive measures.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said this week that the situation does not currently require another state of emergency and that there is no need to reduce or suspend domestic tourism and government-sponsored food campaigns.

Japan declared a state of emergency in April and May, making non-binding requests for company closings and to stay at home. It has managed to prevent infections from becoming as explosive as in Europe and the US.

Experts say that the extensive use of face masks and other common preventive measures, as well as cultural traditions lacking stroking and kissing, could have helped keep the number of cases in the country low.

On Tuesday, Bach softly appealed to all competitors to get vaccinated before the Olympics, if a vaccine is available, to protect themselves and others. He also said that a “reasonable number” of fans should be able to attend the games with or without the vaccine.

Japan has confirmed 120,815 cases overall, including 1,913 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.

– Reported with Associated Press

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