The Japanese government has announced its intention to reinstate a state of health emergency in Tokyo, 15 days before the start of the Olympic Games. A closed door for sporting events is increasingly credible.
The Japanese government confirmed Thursday 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.
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 target cultural and sporting events, a key issue two weeks before the Games start, scheduled for July 23.
“The number of new cases continues to increase in Tokyo ,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japanese minister responsible for the Covid-19 file, 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 is expected to increase further. “
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, adding that hospitalizations were on the rise among those in their forties and fifties.
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 could cause a new wave that could overwhelm hospitals in Japan which has seen several health emergencies since 2020.
The Japanese government’s move comes as Olympics organizers scramble to fix once and for all the number of spectators allowed at venues during the events.
In March, they already banned spectators from abroad – a first in Olympic history – and last month they set a cap of 10,000 local spectators or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower.
But organizers acknowledged that this number could be further reduced, and that the Games could be held behind closed doors if the health situation worsened. Some 11,000 athletes are expected at the Tokyo Olympics where draconian anti-Covid measures have been imposed by the organizers.
The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, is due to arrive in Japan on Thursday where he is expected to participate in a meeting on the spectator issue with the local organizing committee, representatives of the Japanese government and the Tokyo municipality.
The presence or not of an audience and if so within what limit represents a puzzle for the ticket office. A draw supposed to fix a reduced number of spectators has continued to be rejected. It is now scheduled for Saturday.
The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee is working to create enthusiasm for these pandemic-plagued Games.
But the Olympic torch relay, which has been banned on public roads in most of Japan, will also take place behind closed doors from Friday in the capital where limited ceremonies are scheduled until the Games.
On Tuesday, organizers announced that they would ask the public to “refrain” from attending the marathon and walking events in Sapporo (northern Japan).
Polls show that most Japanese would prefer the Games to be postponed again or simply canceled, although opposition to the Olympics has weakened in recent weeks.