Japan needs to extend the coronavirus emergency in Tokyo and other areas with infections that have not yet slowed to levels that can safely host the opening of the Olympics in just over 50 days.
The extension is necessary because people are increasingly roaming in public, especially in Tokyo and Osaka, when they have to do the opposite, and fears that lifting the state of emergency will lead to an immediate recovery from infections, said Economy Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.
The current state of emergency in the capital and eight other metropolitan areas was due to end next Monday, but hospitals in some areas are still overcrowded with COVID-19 patients and serious cases have recently reached new heights.
Nishimura told reporters that the government’s proposal for a 20-day extension until June 20 in the nine districts had received prior approval from experts before an official announcement later Friday. The southern island prefecture of Okinawa is already in emergency status by June 20th.
Olympic organizers have to decide around that date whether to allow fans at all, after foreign spectators were banned months ago. The plan to prioritize vaccinations for Japanese athletes is also being postponed around this time, according to media reports.
The Olympics are set to begin on July 23 after a one-year delay due to the pandemic, and worries about new options and the slow implementation of vaccinations in Japan have prompted calls from the public and medical experts to cancel the games.
Experts have warned that more contagious options are infecting more people, leaving them seriously ill and flooding hospitals.
Japan, meanwhile, is lagging behind in vaccinations due to bureaucratic and planning mistakes and shortages. Only 2.3% of the population is fully vaccinated, and the current phase, aimed at the elderly, is not scheduled to end before the Games.
Still, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his government are determined to host the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee also said that the Olympic Games will continue even if the host city of Tokyo is under urgent measures.
Japan has reported about 730,000 cases of infection and more than 12,700 deaths.