Spectators Banned From Tokyo Venues During Upcoming Olympic Games
By Jason Hall
July 8, 2021
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshide Suga confirmed Thursday (July 8) that the upcoming pandemic-delayed Summer Games would take place with a state of emergency in effect for the country's capital city, CNN reports.
The announcement was reportedly made after five Olympic and Japanese government groups responsible for the games met to discuss the event's status.
"A very heavy judgement was made," said Seiko Hashimoto with the Japanese Olympic Committee via CNN, adding that they have "no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way."
On Wednesday (July 7), Kyodo News reported the Japanese government was expected to declare another COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo until August 22 -- which exceeds the duration of the upcoming Olympic Games -- amid a recent surge in infections, a source with knowledge of the plan confirmed.
The decision was expected to impact whether fans will be allowed to attend the event, which was already limited to 50% capacity (maximum 10,000 fans) as of last month.
A senior government official told Kyodo News that venues in Tokyo would likely remain empty, while some events will be held outside of the city, at the time of the report Wednesday.
The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 920 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is the largest increase since Japan's fourth wave of infections in mid-May and marked the 18th consecutive time the country saw an increase from the previous week.
Prime Minister Suga said a decision on what to do regarding a quasi-state of emergency set to expire on Sunday in 10 prefectures (including Tokyo and Osaka), as well as the ongoing state of emergency in Okinawa, will be made on Thursday (July 8).
"Infections in Tokyo are trending upward, and we will take every necessary measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus," Suga told reporters after meeting with cabinet members, including health minister Norihisa Tamura and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan's COVID-19 response.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency three times previously since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, which has included the Japanese government banning restaurants from serving alcohol, a measure reportedly being considered again, according to sources who spoke to Kyodo News anonymously.
The decision comes amid public opposition of Japan hosting the four-year annual event -- which was canceled in 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic -- due to continued coronavirus concerns, although some criticism has softened with the rate of new infections beginning to decrease.
Many health officials still fear that crowds at the Olympics could drive cases up as the vast majority of Japan has not been vaccinated.
In June, Dr. Shigeru Omi, Japan's top medical adviser, recommended that the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans and allowing attendance presents a risk not just at venues, but also to more circulation on commuter trains, as well as in restaurants and other public spaces, according to ABC News.