Tokyo to get fresh COVID-19 state of emergency during Olympics

Jul 08 , 2021. 39 minutes ago – 09:20 KYODO NEWS

Photo taken June 9, 2021, shows an Olympic rings monument on the summit of Mt. Takao in Hachioji, western Tokyo, a popular hiking destination on the outskirts of the capital. People are wearing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is set to decide Thursday to place Tokyo under another COVID-19 state of emergency until Aug. 22, covering the duration of the Olympics, in an effort to curb a recent surge in infections.

The emergency, to be effective from Monday, could see the Summer Games held without spectators at venues in the capital, dealing another blow to an event that was postponed by one year due to the pandemic.

Suga is set to finalize the decision to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo as well as extend one already in place in Okinawa at a task force meeting Thursday evening.

He will hold a press conference later in the evening to explain the decision.

A quasi-state of emergency, which carries fewer restrictions on business activity, will meanwhile be extended until Aug. 22 for Osaka and three prefectures surrounding Tokyo — Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.

Five other prefectures — Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka — will exit the quasi-state of emergency on Sunday as scheduled.

It would be Tokyo’s fourth state of emergency since the start of the pandemic early last year, with the Japanese government set to reimpose a ban on restaurants serving alcohol and offering karaoke.

The government had initially planned to keep the capital under a quasi-state of emergency, but was forced to change course due to the sharp rise in infections.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 920 new coronavirus cases, the largest since mid-May at the peak of Japan’s fourth wave and topping the figure from a week earlier for the 18th straight day.

Summer Games organizers including the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee are slated to hold a virtual meeting Thursday to decide how many spectators to allow at venues.

They had previously agreed to allow up to 10,000 fans, or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is fewer, but are reviewing that plan as infections in the capital climb.

Venues in Tokyo are likely to go without spectators, and the same may apply to those in nearby prefectures such as the surfing competition in Chiba, sources with knowledge of the matter have said.

Health experts including Suga’s top COVID-19 adviser, Shigeru Omi, have warned that the Olympics — set to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, coupled with the summer holidays and the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus first detected in India — could trigger a surge in infections.