Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Japan reported its highest-ever daily rise in COVID-19 cases as experts warned the country's healthcare system could soon be overwhelmed by patients in major hubs like Tokyo.
Japan's daily caseload on Wednesday was 15,813, including 4,200 new patients in the capital. Other COVID-19 hotspots include Osaka, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures. More than 1 million people in Japan have been infected since the start of the pandemic and the country has confirmed 15,346 deaths, NHK reported.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said Wednesday the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus is "highly contagious" as he asked the public to avoid travel during a national holiday period that begins this week.
Japan has witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases during and after the Tokyo Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have denied a connection between the rise in cases and the Summer Games.
As Japan looks ahead to hosting the Paralympic Games, which begin on Aug. 24, organizers could be planning to hold the event without spectators like the Summer Games, Nikkan Sports reported. More than 4,000 athletes from around the world are expected to take part in the Paralympics in venues in Tokyo, Shizuoka, Chiba and Saitama prefectures.
Experts are warning of a public health disaster in the country.
Hiroshi Nishiura, professor of public health at Kyoto University, said at a health ministry panel on Wednesday that all 6,000 beds in Tokyo hospitals reserved for COVID-19 patients could be filled by mid-August, Kyodo News reported.
Jules Boykoff, a professor of political science at the Pacific University in the United States, told Al Jazeera the Olympics have been costly for the Japanese people.
"The IOC decided to gamble with their health in order to stage an Olympics that would financially benefit the IOC," Boykoff said, according to the report.