Tokyo Sets New Daily COVID Record After Cases More Than Doubled in First Week of Olympics

Tokyo set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases on Saturday, after infections more than doubled during the first week of the city hosting the summer Olympic Games.

On Saturday, city officials said at least 4,058 people tested positive for COVID-19, marking the highest its been since the pandemic first began. The new record comes just days after Tokyo reported a 229 percent rise on its daily case count during the first week of the Olympics.

To prevent the virus from spreading across the Games, Olympic athletes and staff members are getting tested for the coronavirus every day. On Saturday, 21 people working at the Olympics, but no athletes, tested positive for the virus. In total, there have been 241 positive tests reported within the Games, 23 of which were athletes, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier this week, Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), described the Games as the "most tested community almost anywhere in the world," and said that there is no evidence to suggest that athletes or anyone from the Olympics have spread the virus to the general public in Tokyo, The New York Times reported.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 cases in the host city have not stopped rising despite government restrictions and a lack of spectators allowed inside the Olympic venues. Only 1,359 cases were recorded in the city when the Games first started on July 31, a number that has nearly increased three-fold in just over one week.

Now that cases continue to set new daily records, local health authorities reportedly anticipate virus case tallies to peak in first week of August, before the Games are set to end on August 8.

Tokyo olympics
A man wearing a face mask stands before the Olympic rings from an observation point in Tokyo's Odaiba district on March 25, 2020, the day after the historic decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021. Behrouz MEHRI/ AFP/Getty Images

The Games have long been a controversial topic, as critics have said that Tokyo should cancel or postpone the event as virus cases continue to rise around the world. On opening day, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to protest the games, accusing Tokyo of being "greedy" and "selfish" for hosting the event at this time.

But last week, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga dismissed the possibility of canceling the Olympics halfway through as a response to the rising case count, which has largely been linked to the more infectious Delta variant first detected in India last year.

"The flow of people is decreasing. There's no worry," Suga told reporters following a meeting with cabinet officials on the day, according to Japan's Jiji Press. The prime minister urged the public to remain at home where possible.

"More people in their 40s and 50s are being hospitalized, and the Delta strain is spreading quickly," Kyodo News quoted Suga as saying. "We are maintaining a strong sense of caution as we work with local governments to curb infections," he added.

In total, Japan has recorded more than 915,000 COVID-19 cases and 15,000 deaths since the pandemic began. Only about one-quarter of the country's more than 120 million population is fully vaccinated.

According to the AP, daily reported cases on Saturday also reached records in areas neighboring Tokyo, including the Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.

Newsweek contacted the Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.