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July 1, 2021

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday on Thursday said it is “possible” that the Tokyo Olympics may not have any spectators in attendance, a move that the government is reportedly considering amid fears that current plans to allow up to 10,000 spectators at events may trigger a surge in Covid-19 infections.


According to Kyodo News, Suga told reporters that his government will act with the “safety and security” of the Japanese people as its top priority.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the Komeito party—one of the coalition partners of the Suga government— also pushed the government to “consider allowing no spectators,” Nikkei reported.

The discussion on allowing spectators at the games come at a time when Tokyo witnesses a resurgence in the growth of new Covid-19 cases after a month-long drop.

The Japan Times reports that the rebound in cases has forced the government to consider extending the current Covid-19 quasi-state of emergency in the capital city and three adjacent regions. 

The other possibility is that Suga may declare another full state of emergency in the Tokyo area to stamp out the resurgence in cases.

Japan has administered 43.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses with nearly 23% of its total population getting at least one dose, according to Bloomberg’s tracker. After a sluggish start, the country has managed to gain a significant pace, doling out more than 1 million doses a day for the past couple of weeks. However, the vaccine rollout is expected to hit a speed bump once again as the government faces a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine. From July to September, Japan is slated to receive only 70 million doses of the Pfizer shot.

Facing pressure from opposition parties, the Japanese government has revealed that so far six people tied to the Olympics have entered Japan while being infected with the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus. Two delta variant cases were confirmed among Uganda’s Olympic team last week. Four other such cases which had previously been identified included delegations that were visiting from France in February, Egypt in April, Sri Lanka in May and Ghana in June. This has forced organizers to tighten measures for arriving Olympians and others associated with the games. Athletes coming from countries most affected by the delta variant will be subject to stricter surveillance both before and after arrival. The organizers have also released a new smartphone app, which will require foreign participants to monitor their movements after arriving in Japan.

After several weeks of speculation, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics announced on June 21 that domestic fans will be allowed to attend events at the Tokyo Olympics. The spectator limit was set at 50% of a venue’s capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators—in line with the Japanese government’s Covid-19 rules for large sporting events. Spectators attending the games would also face a stringent set of rules that includes temperature checks, mask-wearing, no loud cheering, no high-fives, towel-waving or asking for autographs. The organizers also banned the sale of alcohol at venues, owing to safety concerns. The decision to allow spectators came as Tokyo and several other Japanese regions exited their Covid state of emergency, following a sustained decline in new Covid-19 cases. However, since then Tokyo has seen its daily average of new Covid-19 cases rise from less than 400 a day to more than 500 a day. The government’s top Covid adviser Shigeru Omi has publicly recommended holding the Tokyo Olympics without spectators as it would lower the risk of a fresh outbreak in the country. Suga though previously stated that he took Omi’s recommendations “seriously” but decided not to follow them.

Source: Forbes
Image Source: Getty Images