The Japanese government confirmed this Thursday, July 8, its intention to establish a new state of health emergency for the duration of the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to open in two weeks, foreshadowing the Olympics with few or no spectators.
Japanese media have raised the possibility of a closed session at most of the Olympic venues in Greater Tokyo.
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The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, arrived this Thursday in Japan where he must participate online – a three-day quarantine requires – in a meeting on the issue of spectators with the local organizing committee, representatives the Japanese government and the Tokyo municipality.
The Delta variant represents about 30% of cases
In Japan, health emergency measures are much less stringent than lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, limiting the sale of alcohol and forcing bars and restaurants to close earlier. But restrictions also target cultural and sporting events, an essential issue two weeks before the opening of the Games, on July 23.
“The number of new cases continues to increase in Tokyo”, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japanese minister responsible for the Covid-19 file, said on Thursday. “With the increase in the movement of people, the Delta variant, which is more infectious, now represents around 30% of cases. This figure should increase further “, he clarified.
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Yasutoshi Nishimura said that the new state of health emergency, which will be formalized during the day, would last until August 22 and set a ceiling of 5,000 spectators or 50% of the capacity of a site, whichever is greater. low.
Alcohol will be banned in bars and restaurants, which will have to close at 8 p.m. Events such as concerts must end at 9 p.m.
“We hope to contain the spread of infections by placing Tokyo in a state of emergency”, said the minister, specifying that hospitalizations were on the rise among the forties and fifties.
Only 15% of the vaccinated population
While the Japanese archipelago has been relatively spared so far by the Covid-19 pandemic, with around 14,900 officially recorded deaths since early 2020, its vaccination program has progressed very slowly.
Just over 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated so far and experts fear the Delta variant may cause a new wave that could overwhelm hospitals in Japan which has seen several health emergencies since 2020.
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The Japanese government’s move comes as the organizers of the Olympics scramble to fix once and for all the number of spectators that may be allowed at venues during the events.
Some 11,000 athletes are expected at the Tokyo Olympics where draconian anti-Covid measures have been imposed by the organizers.