Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors and under a state of emergency?

(Tokyo) The rise in the number of new cases of COVID-19 has reached its highest level in two months, which effectively confirms that the government of Japan will re-declare a state of emergency starting next week, and for the duration of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Marie Yamaguchi and Stephen Wade
News agency

The Olympics, which have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, are due to begin in just over two weeks, on July 23.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, is due to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday, where a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases has been observed. Bach will be quarantined for three days in his Tokyo hotel room.

The state of emergency decree could lead to the Olympics being held behind closed doors – even local spectators may have to stay indoors. A decision on that is expected on Friday, when the organizing committee meets with the IOC and other business partners.

The virtual health emergency is set to end on Sunday. Tokyo recorded 920 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 714 recorded in the previous week. This is the highest total since the 1,010 cases reported on May 13.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with his top ministers to discuss health measures to combat the coronavirus and is considering re-declaring a state of emergency in the Japanese capital until August 22. The Olympics are scheduled to end on August 8.

Suga refused to confirm the discussions, but stressed that an increase in the number of cases had been detected and stressed that “we will do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus.”

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Suga said he will make a final decision on the matter on Thursday, after meeting with a panel of medical experts.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters that she expected the government to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo. This will be the fourth time such a decision has been made since the start of the pandemic, in March 2020.

Separately, an advisory committee set up by the government to combat COVID-19 met on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the increase in the number of cases.

“Two-thirds of the infections reported in the metropolitan area are from Tokyo, and we fear that the outbreak will spread to surrounding areas,” said RyĆ«ji Wakita, director general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The Olympics are continuing their preparations despite medical advice, in part because the 15-month postponement of the event has reduced the IOC’s income. The organization generates 75% of its revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights, and several analyzes estimate its financial losses between 3 and 4 billion in the event of the cancellation of the event.

In Japan, about 810,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported so far, with about 14,900 deaths attributed to it. Only 15% of the population is completely immune to the virus, compared to 47.5% in the United States and about 28% in Canada.

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