The Japanese government on Thursday decided to put Tokyo under a state of emergency because of rising coronavirus cases in the capital. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is trying to pull off the Games without triggering a large-scale Covid crisis, said the state of emergency would go into effect on Monday and last through August 22.
This means the Tokyo Olympics opening on July 23 and running till August 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures.
Suga said this step was needed to prevent the resurgence of the future spread of cases across the country.
The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, eateries, and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and enjoy via TV.
The present state of emergency ends Sunday. Tokyo reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, up from 714 a week earlier. It was the 18th straight day of week-on-week increases and was the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.
IOC Chief in town
On his visit to Tokyo, IOC chief Thomas Bach largely avoided cameras at the Haneda Airport and, on a rainy afternoon, went to the International Olympic Committee’s games headquarters in Tokyo, a five-star hotel in the center of the city. M
Bach’s arrival comes just two weeks before the postponed Games are to open. The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community.
Fans from abroad were months ago banned from attending the Olympics. But just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC decided to allow venues to be filled to 50percentt of capacity but crowds not to exceed 10,000. The state-of-emergency will force them to change plans again with a decision probably coming later on Thursday.
No spectators likely
The soaring cases are likely to mean that venues will be without any spectators, although sponsors and others may have access. The no-fan atmosphere could include the opening ceremony at the USD 1.4 billion National Stadium. The uptick in infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to pull the Olympic torch relay off capital streets, allowing it to run only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It’s unclear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.
“The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it,” Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, said. He urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics, with summer vacations approaching. Omi has repeatedly called for a ban on spectators.
Tokyo main contributor in Covid crisis
Separately, a government COVID-19 advisory panel met on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the ongoing resurgence of the infections. Two-thirds of the infections in the capital region are from Tokyo, and our concern is the spread of the infections to neighboring areas, said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement stalled the IOC’s income flow. It gets almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and estimate tells that Tokyo will suffer 3-4 million loss.
About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, and media also entering. The IOC says more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.