Japan ‘to declare state of emergency’ in Tokyo as it cancels Olympic torch relay over Covid

Japan is also considering banning all spectators from the Games

Mayank Aggarwal
Wednesday 07 July 2021 15:05
<p>The logos of Tokyo 2020 are displayed at a street near Odaiba Seaside Park in the Japanese capital</p>

The logos of Tokyo 2020 are displayed at a street near Odaiba Seaside Park in the Japanese capital

Japan could declare a ‘state of emergency’ in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic, just weeks ahead of the start of the Olympics.

The Sankei daily reported that the government could move in an attempt to contain the rise in Covid-19 infections. It also said a “quasi emergency” in place in three prefectures neighbouring Tokyo, which will host some Olympic events, would be extended but did not say for how long.

Already, authorities have announced they will scrap the Olympic torch relay in the capital, over health concerns. Instead, flame lighting ceremonies will be streamed online.

The Olympics start on July 23, despite widespread public opposition to holding the games during a pandemic.

Japan is also considering banning all spectators, reported Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, Japan has recorded over 809,000 cases including nearly 14,900 deaths. Over the past four weeks, the East Asian nation has consistently recorded over 10,000 cases of Covid-19 every week.

The slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination has meant only a quarter of its population has had at least one shot.

For weeks now, medical experts have said that having no spectators at the Olympics would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the Games will fuel new surges of coronavirus infections.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50 per cent of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain an outbreak of Covid-19.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee has also said restrictions on spectators would be based on the content of Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency or other relevant measures.

The Reuters news agency quoted a ruling party source who said that “politically speaking, having no spectators is now unavoidable.”

The games were scheduled to take place last year but were postponed due to the worldwide spread of the virus.

The issue of spectators could be decided on Thursday at five-way talks, which will include the Tokyo governor and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.

Shigeru Omi, the government’s top health adviser, told a parliamentary health committee on Wednesday it was important to reduce the number of Olympic officials and others attending events as much as possible.

He said early July to September was “one of the most important periods" in combating the coronavirus in Japan.

"We have been saying that it’s preferable that the events be held without spectators," Mr Omi said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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