The Japanese government may allow up to 10,000 spectators to attend Olympic events later this summer in Tokyo, according to local media reports, as the country plans to ease its Covid-19 state of emergency in the capital and eight other prefectures following a decline in new cases across the country.
According to NHK, the government’s coronavirus advisory panel approved lifting the state of emergency for nine prefectures from Monday, however, seven of them—including Tokyo—will continue to have limited restrictions in place till July 11.
The prefecture of Okinawa will remain under the current state of emergency until July 11 as its hospitals are under strain from Covid-19 admissions.
In regions where restrictions are fully lifted, the government will allow up to 10,000 spectators to attend large events such as sports games and concerts, which could allow domestic spectators to attend Olympic events.
At present, the decision on spectators at large events does not apply to the Olympic games, with the government’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, telling the government that “the spectator limit for large events should not be relevant to the Olympics,” Nikkei reported.
However, the 10,000 spectator cap is also being mulled for the Olympic games, Kyodo News reported, adding that the event’s organizing committee will give up on plans to sell any additional tickets for the summer games.
According to Kyodo News, the organizing committee now plans to hold a lottery for existing ticket holders—who had purchased tickets before the pandemic led to the games being postponed—for some events to determine who will be allowed to enter.
Despite the drop in cases and easing of the state of emergency, experts have called for caution. On Wednesday, a team of experts released a simulation showing a possible upsurge in infections during the Olympics, the Associated Press reported. On Thursday, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters that the government will not hesitate in issuing a state of emergency during the Olympics to protect the people’s lives and health. However, in such a scenario the decision to cancel or postpone the games will rest solely with the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Tamura added.
26.37 million. That’s the total number of vaccine doses that have been administered in Japan, with almost 15% of the population getting at least one dose, according to Bloomberg’s vaccination tracker. Despite a sluggish start, the country’s vaccination program has ramped up swiftly with nearly 8 million doses being administered just in the past week.
Earlier this week, the IOC released the final version of its so-called Covid-19 playbook which outlines all the rules that the visiting athletes will have to follow during their stay in Japan. The IOC and local organizers believe that the rules will allow them to conduct the games safely. The rules require all participating athletes and officials to be tested for the virus before departing for Tokyo, be screened for the virus daily during the games, and have their movements severely restricted. The organizers have warned that non-compliance with the rules will invite severe repercussions including being banned from the games and being kicked out of Japan. The organizers have also outlined plans to track the visiting athletes and press using GPS data from their phones, something that has faced pushback from journalists.
Japan set to ease virus emergency ahead of Olympics (Associated Press)
Japan to lift state of emergency for nine prefectures (Japan Times)
10,000 spectator cap weighed as option for Tokyo Games (Nikkei Asia)
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