The city of Tokyo, headquarters of Olympics starting this month, has entered a new state of emergency to contain the Covid-19 this Monday, less than two weeks before the Games start, amid doubts about whether the measures will contain an increase in cases of the disease.
Last week, organizers announced that spectators will be banned from almost all competition venues. Foreign spectators had already been barred months ago, and now authorities are asking residents to watch the event on television to keep people moving, which could spread the contagion, to a minimum.
Opinion polls continually show that the Japanese public is concerned about the holding of the Olympics during the pandemic.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the pandemic — including an initially slow distribution of vaccines — undermines his support. The issue is especially sensitive ahead of a national election and the definition of the ruling party’s leadership later this year.
“We would ask people to support home athletes,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on a Sunday television program.
The Games, postponed a year because of the pandemic, will take place from July 23 to August 8, and the state of emergency – the fourth in the capital – lasts until August 22, just before the start of the Paralympics.
The government and organizers have long seen the Games as a chance to showcase Japan’s recovery from a devastating 2011 earthquake and nuclear crisis.
On Saturday, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, the site of a nuclear disaster, said spectators would also be banned from local softball and baseball games, reversing an earlier decision.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one tennis player, said on Sunday he was divided over participation in the Tokyo Olympics since the organizers’ decision to block fans and limit the number of people he can bring to the event.
Some of the biggest names in tennis, including Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stanislas Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Serena Williams and Simona Halep, have already said they will not play in the Games.
Japan records more than 815,440 cases of Covid-19 and nearly 15,000 deaths. Recent increases in Tokyo are particularly worrisome amid a vaccination that started slowly and faces supply problems after accelerating. Only about 28% of the population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
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