Newsman: Japan has announced that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead under a state of emergency, and without any spectators at events in the capital.
“We must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday at a taskforce meeting, after finalizing the decision.
The emergency will begin July 12 and last until August 22, although it could be lifted earlier, Suga added, if the pandemic situation improves. Since the last emergency, Tokyo has been under a looser, quasi-emergency, which has been unable to stop a fifth wave of infections from surging.
At least three Olympic athletes arriving in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19, some with the Delta variant, as have some staff at the Olympic village.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologized that the new emergency was being declared some three weeks after the last one was lifted, and for the burdens it would put on Japan’s population.
Last month, the government sped up vaccinations, opening mass inoculation centers in Tokyo and Osaka, staffed by military doctors. It also planned to vaccinate employees at their workplaces, and students at universities. The government hit its target of a million vaccinations a day, but quickly exhausted supplies.
As a result, they were forced to suspend reservations for vaccinations, and cancel the workplace vaccination plan. At present, less than 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to government statistics.
Other areas outside the capital that are hosting events may have some spectators, Japanese media have reported, and organizers may seek exceptions to allow VIP guests, including members of the International Olympic Committee, corporate sponsors and foreign dignitaries.
Polls show Japanese residents are concerned about Olympic participants spreading infections to the population at large, despite promises by organizers that athletes, staff, media and other participants will be kept in a “bubble.”
Tokyo voters handed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party a setback in local elections last weekend, denying them a majority in the municipal legislature. Exit polls suggested that candidates’ stances on the pandemic and the Olympics were a factor in how most respondents voted.