TOKYO – The Japanese government is considering ending the state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures as scheduled on June 20, but maintaining some restrictions, such as restaurant hours, until the Olympics begin in July, the Mainichi newspaper.
New coronavirus infections at the Tokyo Olympics venue have declined over the past month of emergency restrictions, although authorities remain concerned about the spread of variants and continued pressure on medical resources.
On Friday, the head of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Constitutional Party, Yukio Edano, called for the world sporting event to be postponed or canceled, warning that there was an “extremely high risk” of an explosive outbreak in August and September if they attended ahead.
The Mainichi newspaper reported on Friday that the government would ask restaurants to reduce their hours and impose other restrictions under specific quasi-emergency measures. Bars and restaurants are now asked to close at 8 pm and are prohibited from serving alcohol.
A final decision is expected late next week, a few days before the end of the current state of emergency, which also covers the northern island of Hokkaido, host of the marathon event.
Polls have shown that many Japanese are opposed to holding the Games this year, concerned about the flood of athletes and officials from abroad. Japan has effectively been closed to foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out last year. The Japanese government and Olympic organizers have said the Games will go ahead, barring “Armageddon,” as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) put it. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23.
NOT TOO LATE
A Tokyo 2020 Olympic coronavirus expert, Nobuhiko Okabe, said that shutting down the virus completely would be too difficult and that the focus should be on minimizing the risk.
“Unfortunately, keeping the number (of coronavirus infections) to zero is impossible, so I think the focus should be on minimizing the number as much as possible,” he said at a press conference, adding that the cooperation of athletes and delegates was vital to preventing a major outbreak.
Opposition leader Edano said it was not too late to cancel or postpone the Games.
“I can understand the desire to move forward for the sake of the athletes, but they should postpone one more year or cancel the games,” Edano told a news conference.
A team of experts led by government adviser Hiroshi Nishiura said this week that Japan could be forced to declare another state of emergency in August if current measures are lifted on June 20, as the summer holidays and the Games could provoke an increase in infections and spread. of new variants.
In another possible headache for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government, the digital transformation minister has apologized for telling bureaucrats that they should “threaten” the developer of a smartphone app intended to monitor the health of foreign visitors to the Games to force a reduction in costs, means. reported.
Organizers of the Olympics decided in March to ban spectators from abroad. Hirai’s comments sparked outrage on social media.
“As the person responsible for the people’s precious tax money, I strongly wanted to eradicate waste,” the Kyodo news agency told Takuya Hirai to reporters. “The expression was inappropriate and I want to be careful in the future.”
Japan has recorded more than 760,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 13,800 deaths, while only 12% of its population has received at least one vaccine injection.
Japan plans to finish vaccinating all those who want vaccinations by October-November, Suga said in parliament this week. (Written by Linda Sieg and Chang-Ran Kim; edited by Gerry Doyle and Lincoln Feast.)