Olympics at risk? Japan extends emergency

With what seems like another resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Japan has officially extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country till a month before the Olympics, fueling doubts as to whether the Games can go ahead as scheduled.

Japan has seen a relatively small outbreak of coronavirus, with around 13,000 deaths and 57,000 active cases, and was supposed to end the emergency state tomorrow, May 31. But the threat of a fourth wave has prompted the government to extend its emergency measures in ten regions, including Tokyo, till June 20.

Organizers of the Olympic Games, schedule to open July 23, have yet to decide whether to allow local fans at the Games, but overseas fans have already been barred, in an unprecedented attempt to convince the skeptic Japanese public that the Games can safely go ahead.

Many fear that lifting the restrictions too soon might prompt another surge in cases just before the Games. Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, “The number of new cases has been declining since the middle of the month but the situation continues to be uncertain.”

Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto added, “Once the state of emergency is lifted, we will assess how many spectators we can allow in,” further acknowledging that a final decision on local fans and new guidelines for indoor and outdoor venues will not be taken till the end of the month.

Prime Minister Suga also said he was “aware that many are voicing their worries and concerns over the Olympics”. According to him, the number of overseas participants would be kept to a bare minimum, and athletes would have absolutely no interaction with the Japanese public.

He tried to reassure reports, saying, “We’re listening to those voices and preparing for a safe and secure Olympics.” Yet, it is also worth mentioning that just over six percent of Japan’s population has so far received the first dose, with less than 2.5 percent fully vaccinated.


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