As COVID-19 infections continue to rise in Tokyo, the government on Thursday decided to declare a state of emergency, increasing the chances of a spectator-less Tokyo Olympics. The new state of emergency is set to begin on Monday and last till August 22, when the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to finish. Their decision will be formally announced on Thursday. Since April 2020, this will be the fourth COVID related emergency decree in the country.
The state of emergency is expected to have a major impact on the Olympic Games. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organising committee and the International Olympic Committee had capped the maximum number of spectators at large venues at 10,000, or half capacity. The two parties will soon hold talks with other stakeholders to discuss their response to the state of emergency. The Tokyo organising committee is considering several adjustments to the events including holding events past 9 pm without an audience, as well as lowering the cap to 5,000 or events earlier in the day, in line with government guidelines.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga acknowledged the rise in infections and said he would "take all possible measures" to control the spread of the virus, as reported by Nikkei Asia. On Wednesday, the national capital confirmed 920 COVID-19 cases, which is Tokyo's highest count of confirmed cases since May 13.
Tokyo's current "quasi" state of emergency is scheduled to end on Sunday. In Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Osaka, the quasi state of emergency will continue till August 22nd. The quasi emergency is scheduled to be lifted in Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka. Despite an expected increase in tourism due to the Olympics and the Bon holidays, the country is now preparing for extended restrictions. Japan is focusing its current vaccination drive for the elderly and wants to deliver shots to more people to prevent another possible spike in cases.
Tokyo's metropolitan government asked the national government to strengthen its infection control measures to limit a possible spike in cases. This includes suspension of alcohol sales at restaurants and closing bars and restaurants by 8 pm. States falling under the quasi emergency will be asked to stop serving alcohol. Governors of each prefecture can ease restrictions as they deem necessary.
(Edited by Pronoy Basu)
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