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Japan logs record new coronavirus cases for 3rd day in row

People wearing protective masks pass through a pedestrian bridge on July 30, 2021, in Yokohama. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's daily total of COVID-19 cases hit 10,743 on Friday, logging a record figure for the third straight day, while Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has denied any linkage between the Olympics being held in the capital and the resurgence.

    The nationwide tally of cases included 3,300 in Tokyo, which confirmed over 3,000 new cases for the third straight day, and record daily infections in the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa and Chiba, which logged 1,418 and 753 cases, respectively.

    Tokyo's figure compares with 3,865 marked Thursday when it reported a record figure for the third straight day. The capital's seven-day rolling average of cases has risen to 2,501.4 per day, up 80.5 percent from the previous week.

    Although foot traffic in downtown areas has slightly decreased, the surge in infections comes amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

    Despite Suga's denial of a link between the Olympics and the rapid pace of infections, some experts say a festive mood during the sports event is leading to the public's complacency about COVID-19.

    Hosting of the Olympics is "sending a contradictory message on prevention of the spread of infections," Takaji Wakita, deputy head of the Japanese Association of Medicalcare Corporations who heads the health ministry's expert panel on the coronavirus response, told reporters after meeting with Suga.

    Coming under fire for its sluggish vaccine rollout, the government has ramped up COVID-19 vaccination programs, aiming to complete inoculating all who wish to get vaccinated by November.

    While some local governments have been forced to halt their vaccination programs after vaccine demand began to outstrip supply, Suga, in a press conference Friday, said his goal of inoculating those 65 years or older by the end of July had been achieved while asking younger people to exercise caution in their daily lives.

    According to the latest available government data, 73.1 percent of people 65 or older have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 as of Thursday, with 85.7 percent having received at least one shot.

    Overall, about 33 percent of Japan's population had received at least one shot as of Thursday.

    Elsewhere, Osaka Prefecture logged 882 new cases, while Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, logged 853.

    The central government has placed Tokyo under a fourth state of emergency, mostly relying on a cooperative public and not imposing a hard lockdown as some countries have, from July 12.

    Facing the urgent need to take stronger anti-virus measures, it decided Friday to add Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Osaka prefectures to areas under the emergency, which already covers Tokyo and Okinawa, from next Monday through Aug. 31.

    The COVID-19 emergency initially declared for Tokyo and Okinawa through Aug. 22 will also be extended until the end of the month.

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