The government of Japan extended a state of emergency in Tokyo by three weeks until May 31 to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus a few months before the Tokyo Olympics. The government had hoped a few weeks restriction would prevent the fourth wave of infection. Still, the increasing cases in Tokyo and three other areas continued to put the country at risk, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of Covid-19 measures, said.
Extension of the state of emergency from May 11 until the end of the month will lead to a margin of fewer than two months before the start of the Olympics. “The second- city Osaka is in a dangerous state with its health system,” Nishimura declared at a meeting with a board of medical and economic specialists.
The board and the formal government finally approved the extension. All hospital beds for critical conditions in Osaka were full, as reported by public broadcaster NHK. Nationwide, the number of reported cases of coronavirus hit 618,197, with 10,585 Covid-19 related deaths.
The government placed Aichi prefecture to the west of Tokyo and Fukuoka prefecture to the southwest under a state of emergency, joining Osaka and Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures. The northern island of Hokkaido was put in regions under a “quasi-state of emergency” together with the other two areas.
Bars, restaurants, karaoke joints, and other social gatherings serving alcohol remain closed while people continue to be requested to minimize unnecessary travel. Others restrictions were reduced, said Nishimura. Commercial places like shopping malls were asked to open for fewer hours rather than shutting down completely. Japan has not had a bad experience with the novel virus as other nations, but its campaign on vaccination is slow, with many older people still waiting for the vaccine.
Will the Olympics take place?
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said an opinion poll showed almost 60% of Japanese want the already delayed Tokyo Olympics called off about less than three months before they are set to begin. The extended state of emergency further raises the question of whether the Olympics should take place or not regardless of the low rate of vaccination.
Tokyo planners, Suga, and Olympic officials have insisted the event will take place safely and securely. According to a public opinion survey performed early this month by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, 59% wanted the Games called off, with 39% saying they should go ahead. There was no option to cancel the Game, which has already been postponed since last year.
More than 30,000 Japanese have signed a petition to cancel the event in about five days since it was launched. About 100 protesters against the Olympics marched around Tokyo National Stadium to demonstrate their opposition to the Game when a test event took place. The protesters talked out their anger at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo planners for going on with the games even as the noble coronavirus spread continues to rise. The demonstration showed how bad the COVID-19 situation is, and yet the Olympics have to take place.
Suga was asked in a parliamentary committee seating whether the event should be held even with the increasing coronavirus cases; he said he had never put Olympics first. “My priority has always been to protect the Japanese population. We must prevent the spread of the virus,” he replied. He insisted that the IOC holds the final decision on the fate of the event, and the responsibility of the government is to take steps so the event takes place safely.
John Coates, a top Olympic official, stated that while the Japanese view about the Olympics was a great concern, he could not see any circumstance under which the event would be postponed. The sporting extravaganza is set to begin on July 23 and continue until August 8.
Overseas Olympics fan prohibited over coronavirus pandemic fear.
Overseas fans will be banned from this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics due to the COVID-19 situation. The IOC and Japanese government, the International Paralytic Committee (IPC), and the Tokyo government announced this decision after an online meeting.
Over a million tickets were reported to have been sold to fans overseas, while 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japanese. The president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said they could wait up to the last moment to conclude, but it is a different case for the spectators. “Overseas fans have to book accommodations and flights, and so we have to conclude early to avoid a lot of inconveniences from them. It is a tough decision,” he said.
However, ticket sales are among the largest source of income in Japan. They will lose almost $800m from this decision—the financial difficulty of lost ticket sales lands on Japan. Generally, Japan will be spending $615.4 billion to plan for the Olympics. Some government audits say the initial expenditure may be double that amount.
Some of the measures implemented for the Olympics.
Planners produced the second version of a playbook defining several Covid-19 measures that will involve a series of measures to be followed to enable the Games to take place safely considering the evolution of Covid-19 in Japan and worldwide. With the strict health measures being implemented, this year’s Olympics will be different from others. Every single player will have a role to play to ensure they are safe.
The procedures include; all participants be tested twice for the virus before entering Japan and being tested every day after arrival. If tested positive, the participants will isolate and will not be allowed to participate.
Athletes will be expected to download two apps for contact tracing and health reporting, and they will receive a Samsung smartphone on arrival to access health details. According to the playbook, participants have been asked to wear a mask every time apart from when sleeping, drinking, eating, training, or competing. They have also been asked to minimize physical interaction.
Athletes have been advised not to use public transport for travel, but instead, they are asked to use dedicated Games vehicles. They are also requested not to visit tourists’ spots, shops, hotels, gyms, or bars- they must take meals in their assigned areas. They are also instructed to depart within 48 hours after finishing their competition.