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Tokyo Reports Its Highest COVID-19 Numbers Since January As First Olympic Games Start

Two days before the Olympics' opening ceremony, Tokyo is reporting new COVID-19 cases at levels not seen since January — when Japan was enduring a record spike in coronavirus infections.

The 1,832 new cases represent a sharp rise from last Wednesday, when the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 1,149 cases.

"There is a high risk of a resurgence of the virus," Tokyo's government said in a bulletin issued on Wednesday. It added that the caseload has put Tokyo's health system under pressure, in terms of providing non-COVID-related care.

Tokyo and other Japanese regions are already operating under a state of emergency — a condition that will persist throughout the Summer Olympics. The Games' opening ceremony is slated for Friday, with competitions running through Aug. 8.

Ahead of the opening ceremony, large tournament-format sports such as Olympic softball and soccer kicked off their opening rounds of group play on Wednesday.

Coronavirus cases have been rising in Tokyo since June. Health officials say they're very concerned that things are about to get worse.

"If the increase rate rises further, in less than two weeks, we will face a critical situation with the number of infections far exceeding that of the third wave," the government said. "There is an urgent need to prepare crisis management systems for hospital care, as well as for designated hotels for recovery and at-home recovery."

On the national level, Japan's health ministry reported 3,743 new cases on Wednesday.

Japan avoided the massive spike in COVID-19 cases that some countries saw last spring. But it has endured two large spikes since then, at the turn of the new year as well as in weeks spanning from April into May. In Tokyo and nationwide, officials reported the highest numbers of new cases in early January.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.