Japan continues to see record-high COVID-19 cases, but officials say Olympics aren't the problem

·2 min read

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Japan, officials say the Olympics are not the problem. 

Japan reported 3,865 new cases Thursday, setting a record in the country. COVID cases have steadily increased in Japan since the start of the Games. While officials are concerned about the high COVID counts, they do not believe the new positives have anything to do with the Olympics. 

Japan's vaccine minister, Taro Kono, told the Associated Press there is no evidence of Olympic athletes spreading the virus to the general public.

"I don’t think there have been any cases related to the Olympic Games. So we aren’t worried about that issue," Kono said.

Officials blame the Delta variant of the virus, which is considered to be a more infectious strain of COVID-19, for the surge. Young adults have made up a large number of the new COVID-19 cases, and officials want to remind them of the severity of the virus and the protocols necessary to prevent its spread. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she wants young people to realize "the Delta strain is a very tough, dangerous enemy." 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the country has "never experienced the expansion of the infections of this magnitude."

Japan lags behind in COVID-19 vaccination rate

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Tokyo, but experts aren't blaming the Olympics. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Tokyo, but experts aren't blaming the Olympics. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Japan has struggled with vaccine rollout for a number of reasons. There was skepticism in the country in the 1990s after a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine caused aseptic meningitis and other strong reactions. That led to Japan loosening its stance on vaccines, making them individual choices.

In addition, the country wasn't able to produce and develop its own vaccines. When Japan received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it decided to do clinical trials on those vaccines before approving them for public use. That step delayed vaccinations by 2-3 months.

The country has made progress since making the COVID vaccines available, but only 38 percent of residents have received at least one shot, according to Our World in Data. Canada leads all countries with 71 percent of residents receiving at least one shot. The United States sits at 57 percent. 

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