Just two weeks ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan has declared another COVID-19 state of emergency. The country’s government is now considering a ban on all spectators in order to curb the number of new infections, which will make for a very different Games than what we are used to seeing.
Organizers have already banned international spectators and capped domestic spectators at 50 per cent, up to 10,000 people. According to Reuters, medical experts in the country have been recommending for weeks that there be no spectators at the Games, saying it would be the least risky option considering the public backlash by the Japanese people. Banning spectators may also be the only way the current ruling political party can save face with the Japanese public.
“Politically speaking, having no spectators is now unavoidable,” a ruling party source told Reuters.
While Japan has not had the same massive outbreaks seen in North America and Europe, they have had difficulty stamping out clusters of infections, especially in Tokyo. The city recorded 920 new cases on Wednesday, the highest number since mid-May. Japan’s vaccine rollout has also been slow, and only about 25 per cent of the country’s population has received their first dose.
This new state of emergency is expected to last until Aug. 22. (The Paralympics begin Aug. 24.) The Japanese government is expected to meet with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and the organizers of the Games later this week to discuss next steps.