The Japanese government formally declared a state of emergency in Tokyo on Thursday, due to rising numbers of COVID-19 infections. Restrictions will be in place throughout the duration of the Olympic Games, and may mean that spectators are banned from some events in Tokyo and nearby prefectures.
The Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide made the announcement in the afternoon and is set to give further details at an evening press conference.
Games organizers, including the International Olympic Committee, are meeting with national government and Tokyo city authorities.
The games, still branded as Tokyo 2020, are set to run July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. They have been heavily criticized within the country due to the country’s inability to get the disease under control.
The government had hoped to keep Tokyo operating under a quasi-state of emergency for the duration of the games. But on Wednesday the Tokyo metropolitan government announced 920 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily figure in more than two months. On Thursday, the figure was 896 new cases, 27% higher than last week. Detection of the highly-infectious new Delta variant of the disease, gives further cause for concern.
Japan’s health minister Tamura Norihisa encouraged people to watch the upcoming Tokyo Olympics at home. He is expected to ask bars and restaurants not to screen the games and create crowds.
Olympic organizers had previously agreed to allow up to 10,000 fans, or 50% occupancy at some events. But this is likely to be reviewed following the announcement of the fourth state of emergency in the capital.
Spectators coming into Japan from abroad have already been banned. But more than 3.5 million tickets have been sold to Japanese residents.
Athletes have for several weeks been arriving in the country. IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday and is reported to be in quarantine in a hotel. After three days, he is scheduled to visit the athletes’ village in Tokyo’s Harumi district, and later visit Hiroshima on the anniversary of the July, 16, 1945 atomic bombing.