As the Japanese capital struggles with a new wave of cases, pressure is mounting on Olympic organizers over spectators.
Japan will declare a state of emergency in Tokyo to contain the city’s latest wave of coronaviruses, which will continue even as the Olympics are held, a key minister said Thursday, as organizers consider banning the participation of all spectators.
Experts on medical advisers have said for weeks that not having spectators at the Games would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the influx of thousands of athletes and officials is fueling a new wave of infections.
Organizers have already banned foreign viewers and set one up cover for national fans at 50 percent capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people. Talks are expected to end restrictions on spectators, either Thursday or Friday.
The chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, who arrives in Tokyo on Thursday to oversee the final stretch of preparations, will chair the talks.
Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the government’s response to the coronavirus, said the state of emergency in Tokyo will begin on July 12 and remain in effect until August 22.
The Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23 and last two weeks. They will be followed by the Paralympic Games.
The decision to impose a state of emergency after an increase in Tokyo cases to the maximum since mid-May. The Japanese capital is currently under slightly less stringent “almost urgent” measures.
The measure is expected to be made official this Thursday and then a press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will be held.
Neighboring areas of Tokyo, where some Olympic trials, such as Chiba and Kanagawa, are also expected to take place, will remain in “near emergency” until August 22.
Underlining the last-minute nature of preparations, organizers told Olympic sponsors on Wednesday that they envisioned two scenarios when Tokyo went into a state of emergency: no spectators or setting a 5,000-person limit for spectators, a source familiar with the matter. the Reuters news agency.
On the non-spectator stage, the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as all sporting events, are likely to take place without fans, including tickets assigned to sponsors, organizers told companies at online meetings.
If the number of spectators is limited to 5,000 per venue, the tickets allocated to the Olympic sponsors would be halved and the organizers also expect that any session after 21:00 (12:00 GMT) will be held without spectators, he said. say the source.
The organizing committee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Until this week, officials have insisted that they could safely organize the Games with some spectators, but at reverse of the ruling party in an election to the Tokyo assembly on Sunday, which some of Suga’s allies attributed to public outrage over the Olympics, they had forced the change of spot, sources said.
Japan will hold parliamentary elections later this year and the government’s insistence that the Games, already postponed for a year due to the pandemic, should go ahead could cost it support at the polls, they said.