Japan Declares State of Emergency in Tokyo Two Weeks Before Olympics Amid COVID-19 Surge

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, TODAY

Amid an increase in COVID-19 cases, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo — just two weeks before the Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin in the city.

The state of emergency will begin Monday, July 12, and run through Aug. 22, while the games are scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8, Suga announced Thursday. 

In addition to Tokyo, the state of emergency already in place in Okinawa and the quasi-state of emergency covering Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa and Osaka were also extended to Aug. 22. 

Hours after the announcement, Olympic organizers announced that there will be no fans permitted at competitions held in Tokyo or any other areas affected by the emergency order.

Previously, Olympic officials said venues could be filled to 50% capacity but that crowds could not exceed 10,000 people. Foreign spectators were already banned from attending the games this summer.  

The Opening Ceremony will be closed to the general public, but Olympic officials, foreign dignitaries and other stakeholders may still be permitted to attend. 

In a statement Suga said, “Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures.”

The measures will mainly focus on prohibiting restaurants and bars from serving alcohol and requesting them to close by 8 p.m. in an effort to tone down Olympic-related festivities, The Associated Press reported.

Since April, several prefectures had been under a state of emergency as the country faced a fourth wave driven by more contagious variants of the virus. 

Japanese officials downgraded the status last month in nine regions after tracking a decline in new daily cases but cautioned that they would not hesitate to issue another emergency declaration even in the middle of the Olympics should another surge occur. 

Tokyo reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, which was the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.  

Since the onset of the pandemic, Japan has recorded 810,000 confirmed cases and more than 14,900 virus-related fatalities

The nation has faced a relatively slow rollout of vaccines with only about 15% of the population fully vaccinated and 25% receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

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The 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed by a year due to concerns over how organizers can keep athletes, officials, volunteers and the public safe.

Despite concerns that the international sporting event could lead to more infections and overwhelm an already stressed healthcare system, Suga’s administration and the International Olympic Committee have said the Games can be held safely and securely. 

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