Japan to Declare New COVID-19 State of Emergency for Tokyo Through Olympics

The Japanese government is expected to announce Thursday that it will impose a new state of emergency for Tokyo due to the rise of new COVID-19 cases across the country.Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government’s economy minister and head of its coronavirus response efforts, told reporters the state of emergency will begin Monday and last until Aug. 22 — a period that will cover the duration of the Tokyo Olympics, which will take place between July 23 and Aug. 8.The new state of emergency will likely prompt the government to either scale back the number of spectators allowed to witness Olympics events to 5,000 people, or ban them altogether. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics announced just last month that it would allow just 10,000 people, or 50% of a venue’s capacity, at all events, despite health experts advising the government that banning all spectators was the “least risky” option for holding the games.Foreign spectators have already been banned from attending the event.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to formally announce the state of emergency Thursday.Local and national government officials along with Olympic and Paralympic officials will make a final decision on Thursday or Friday about allowing spectators after meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Bach is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday and enter into a mandatory three-day quarantine period.Tokyo and several other prefectures shifted last month from a state of emergency imposed in April into “quasi-emergency” measures that are set to expire Sunday.However, Japan is coping with a fourth wave of new infections and a slow vaccination campaign that has left just 15% of all Japanese citizens fully inoculated. Tokyo reported 920 new infections Wednesday, its highest numbers since May.The surge has already affected two traditional Olympic events. Tokyo’s metropolitan government announced Wednesday that it will move the iconic Olympic torch relay off the city’s public roads; relay runners will instead carry the torch out of public view to private torch-lighting ceremonies across Tokyo after the Olympic symbol arrives Friday.In addition, Olympic organizers will request that the public not gather on the streets to witness the marathon races when they are staged in the final days of the games.The Tokyo Olympics are set to take place after a one-year postponement as the novel coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the globe. The current surge prompted staunch public opposition against going through with the Olympics, including a prominent group of medical professionals that urged Prime Minister Suga to call off the games.This report includes information from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.  

leave a reply