This content was published on Jul 08, 2021 – Jul 07:12,
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday announced the imposition of a health emergency again in Tokyo to confront the high number of cases of Covid-19, and it will remain in force for the duration of the Olympic Games, which start in two weeks.
“We will declare a state of emergency in Tokyo,” Suga said during a government meeting on health measures, adding that the decision would last until August 22.
The Olympic Games are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.
Japanese media reported the possibility of holding competitions in most of the Olympic facilities behind closed doors.
German International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, where he will participate via video – because he is subject to a mandatory three-day quarantine – in a meeting on the issue of public attendance with a local organizing committee and representatives of the Japanese government and the Tokyo municipality.
In Japan, health emergency measures are much less stringent than elsewhere in the world, limiting the sale of alcohol and forcing bars and restaurants to close earlier than usual.
But the restrictions also target cultural and sporting events, a key issue two weeks before the Olympics open.
“The number of cases continues to rise in Tokyo,” Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Japanese minister in charge of the COVID-19 file, said Thursday. He added, “With the increase in the movement of people, the delta mutated, the most contagious, now accounts for about 30% of cases, and this number is expected to rise.”
He explained that the new state of health emergency will set a ceiling of five thousand spectators and 50% of the site’s capacity according to the minimum number.
The sale of alcohol will be prohibited in bars and restaurants, which will close at 8 pm. The parties are supposed to end at nine in the evening.
“We hope to contain the spread of infections by placing Tokyo in a state of emergency,” the Japanese minister added, noting that the number of hospital admissions is rising in the forties and fifties.
While the archipelago has so far been relatively spared from the Covid-19 epidemic, with about 14,900 official deaths since the beginning of 2020, the vaccination program is progressing very slowly.
Only 15% of the population has been vaccinated so far and experts fear the delta mutant could cause a new wave that would flood hospitals in Japan, which has imposed health emergencies several times since 2020.
The Japanese government’s decision comes as Olympic Games organizers seek to limit the number of spectators who will be allowed to enter the facilities permanently during the competitions.
– Strict measures –
In March, Japan banned overseas spectators – a precedent in the history of the Olympics – and last month it capped around 10,000 domestic spectators, or 50% of the site’s capacity, depending on the lowest figure.
But the organizers acknowledged that this number may be reduced further, and that the Olympics could be held in closed competitions in the event that the health situation worsened.
And 11,000 athletes are expected to participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, as organizers imposed very strict measures in the face of Covid-19.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organizing Committee is trying to create some enthusiasm in the atmosphere of these games, which is overshadowed by the epidemic.
But the local authorities announced on Wednesday that the Olympic torch relay “on public roads” in the capital was “cancelled” due to health restrictions.
The Tokyo municipality confirmed that the Olympic torch relay in the capital will begin on Friday, adding that due to the “Covid-19” epidemic, all sections that were scheduled to be held on public roads between July 9 and 23, the opening date of the Games “have been canceled, except for areas Isolated Islands” related to the Ogasawara Archipelago, located 900 km south of Tokyo.
Instead, small Olympic torch-lighting ceremonies will be held at various locations in the capital “without spectators,” Tokyo authorities added in a statement calling on residents to watch it from home.
An opinion poll showed that a majority of Japanese would prefer the Olympics to be postponed again or even to be cancelled, although opposition to the Olympics has waned in recent weeks.