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Olympic host Japan records highest number of new COVID-19 cases since start of pandemic

Tokyo — The number of new coronavirus cases registered in Tokyo on Wednesday was the highest since the start of the pandemic, topping 3,170. The nationwide total also hit a new high of 8,160 cases reported in a single day as the 2020 Olympic Games continued, with doctors warning that the host city's medical system faced being overwhelmed.

At the Showa University Hospital in Tokyo, the highly infectious Delta variant now accounts for 70% of all cases of COVID-19, hospital director Dr. Hironori Sagara told CBS News. Young patients are filling up the wards, and Sagara said the Olympics are partly to blame.

"Even though spectators have been banned at Olympic events, crowds are gathering outside venues. So we can assume cases will rise," Sagara said.

He said a continued increase in cases could force hospitals to start turning patients away.

"With cases spiking and beds filling up, medical system collapse is a real possibility."

From a dream to a nightmare

Olympic super-fan and pub owner Mamoru Tanaka had initially been excited about the prospect of a Games hosted in Tokyo.

"When Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics, I was thrilled. And as a sports bar owner, I was like, 'Yeah!' I was full of high hopes," he said.

But while Tanaka's big-screen TVs are tuned to the Games, his Olympic dream has become a nightmare.

To control the pandemic during the Olympics and summer vacations, Tokyo has banned alcohol service at bars and required them to close early, meaning instead of drawing hundreds of fans, Tanaka's business barely earns enough to keep the lights on.

"I can't sleep wondering if I'll be able to pay my rent. Can I make payroll? Can I pay my suppliers?" Tanaka said.

"It feels like there was no choice"

Because of the pandemic, the majority of Japanese people favored postponing or canceling the 2020 Olympics before they began last week. But now that they are going ahead, enthusiasm has grown.

The opening ceremony drew unusually strong viewership in Japan — the highest for any Olympics since the first Tokyo Games in 1964 — with the country's early medal wins helping to drive up interest.

"We got to the point where it was too late to cancel," college student Hana Takezawa told CBS News. Takezawa, who may not be able to get a vaccine reservation for months, said she feels torn between pandemic anxiety and wanting to be a good sport.

"I think people became resigned to it. It feels like there was no choice," she said.

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