Two weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games, the Prime Minister of Japan declared Tokyo a state of emergency
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga declared a state of emergency due to the rising rate of coronavirus infection in the capital. It seemed that he might ban spectators from participating in the Tokyo Olympics.
Yoshihide Suga stated that the state of emergency will take effect on Monday and will last until August 22. This means that the Olympic Games, which will open on July 23 and last until August 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures.
Yoshihide Suga said that a state of emergency is necessary to “prevent future cases from spreading across the country.”
Bach basically avoided cameras at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, and on a rainy afternoon, he went to the five-star hotel in the center of Tokyo-the International Olympic Committee headquarters. According to reports, he needs to self-isolate for three days.
Bach’s arrival came two weeks before the postponed Tokyo Olympics. Despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical circles, the International Olympic Committee and local organizers are still trying to host the Olympics during the pandemic.
The main focus of the emergency is to require the closure of bars, restaurants and karaoke halls that serve alcohol. Banning the provision of alcoholic beverages is a key step in diluting Olympic-related celebrations and preventing people from drinking and gatherings. Residents of Tokyo are expected to face the requirement to stay at home and watch the Olympics on TV at home.
Foreign fans have been banned
The current state of emergency will end on Sunday. Tokyo reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, up from 714 cases a week ago. This is the 18th consecutive day of month-on-month rise and the highest level since 1,010 reported on May 13.
A few months ago, foreign fans were banned from participating in the Olympics. But just two weeks ago, the organizers and the International Olympic Committee decided to allow the capacity of the venue to reach 50%, but the number of spectators should not exceed 10,000. The state of emergency will force them to change plans again, and a decision may be made later on Thursday.
The surge of cases may mean that there will be no spectators in the venue, although sponsors and others may be able to enter. The atmosphere without fans may include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion US National Stadium.
The increase in the number of infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to remove the Olympic torch relay from the streets of the capital, making it only available on remote islands off the coast of Tokyo. It is not clear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.
The number of infections is rising
“The infection is in an expansion phase, and everyone in this country must firmly understand its seriousness,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, a senior medical adviser to the government.
As the summer vacation approached, he urged the authorities to quickly take tough measures before the Olympics.
Omi has repeatedly called for banning spectators from entering the venue, saying that it is “abnormal” to hold the Olympic Games during the pandemic.
In addition, the government’s COVID-19 advisory group met on Wednesday and expressed concern about the continued rise of infection.
“Two-thirds of the infected people in the metropolitan area are from Tokyo, and we are worried that the infection will spread to neighboring areas,” said Ryuji Wakita, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Olympics are opposing most medical advice, partly because the delay will hinder the IOC’s revenue flow. Almost 75% of its revenue comes from the sale of broadcasting rights, and it is estimated that if the Olympics are cancelled, it will lose between US$3 billion and US$4 billion.
It is expected that approximately 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympics will enter Japan, as will tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters and the media. The International Olympic Committee stated that more than 80% of the residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.
Nationwide, Japan has approximately 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15% of Japanese people are fully vaccinated, which is still low compared to 47.4% in the United States and nearly 50% in the United Kingdom.