Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suka announced the new health emergency in Tokyo on Thursday, July 8, as the number of Govt-19 cases increased, following the Olympic Games, which will open in two weeks.
A state of emergency was declared in Tokyo on Thursday, July 8, and Suka told a government meeting on health measures that it would last until August 22. The Olympics are scheduled for July 23 to August 8.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), took part in an online meeting in Japan – requiring three days of isolation – on the issue of visitors with the local organizing committee, representatives of the Japanese government and the Tokyo municipality. In Japan, health emergencies are much lower than locks imposed anywhere else in the world, restricting alcohol sales and forcing bars and restaurants to close earlier. But the restrictions also target cultural and sporting events, an important issue two weeks before the game starts on July 23rd.
Bars and restaurants will close at 8 p.m.
“The number of new cases in Tokyo continues to rise,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Japanese minister in charge of the Kovit-19 file, on Thursday. “With the increase in population movement, the delta variant, which is more contagious, now represents about 30% of cases. This number should increase further,” he said. The new health emergency sets a ceiling of 5,000 visitors or 50% of a site’s capacity, whichever is lower. Liquor stores and restaurants will be barred from closing at 8:00 p.m. Events like concerts should end at 9:00 p.m. “We hope to control the spread of infections by keeping Tokyo in an emergency,” the minister said, adding that hospital admissions are on the rise among those in their forties and fifties. The Japanese archipelago has not yet been saved from the Kovit-19 epidemic, with about 14,900 officially reported deaths since the beginning of 2020, and its vaccination program has progressed very slowly.
More than 15% of the population has been vaccinated so far and experts fear the delta variation could cause a new wave that will overwhelm hospitals in Japan that have seen multiple health emergencies since 2020. The decision of the Japanese government has come as organizers of the Olympic struggle to once and for all adjust the number of spectators allowed in the arenas during the events.
In March, they already banned spectators from abroad – the first in Olympic history – and last month they set the minimum number at 10,000 local spectators or 50% of a venue’s capacity.
But the organizers agreed that the number could be further reduced and that the game could take place even behind closed doors if the health condition worsens. About 11,000 athletes are expected at the Tokyo Olympics, where tough anti-Govt measures have been imposed by the organizers. The presence or absence of spectators is a mystery to the ticket office. A draw that has to accommodate a low number of spectators has consistently been rejected. It is now scheduled for Saturday. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee is working to create some excitement for these infected sports.
But the Olympic torch relay, which is banned on public roads in most parts of Japan, will be held behind closed doors in the capital from Friday, where very limited festivities are planned until the Games.
On Tuesday, organizers announced they were asking the public to refrain from attending marathon and walking events in Sapporo (northern Japan).
Although opposition to the Olympics has weakened in recent weeks, polls show that most Japanese prefer to postpone or cancel the Games.