TOKYO (NEWS 1130) – Surging COVID-19 cases in Tokyo have hit a two-month high that almost guarantees the Japanese government will declare a new state of emergency to start next week, and continue for the duration of the Olympics.
The Summer Games are set to get underway in just two weeks, on July 23. About 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians will need to enter the capital city, along with tens of thousands of coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and media.
Word of a possible state of emergency comes as the capital city sees its biggest one-day increase since January. Hospitalizations are also on the rise, while vaccinations continue to lag.
So far, only about 15 per cent of people in Japan have been fully vaccinated. That is compared to almost 50 per cent in both the U.S. and Britain, and almost 40 per cent in Canada.
Though the Tokyo Olympics are still set to go ahead, the major sporting event will look very different.
Organizers and the International Olympic Committee are expected to announce the Games will be a TV-only event with few fans — if any — being allowed.
Citing multiple sources, Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported Tuesday only VIPs, sponsors, and others dignitaries will likely be allowed in the National Stadium for the opening ceremony, and that other large venues will likely not have any fans.
Smaller venues may reportedly allow some fans.
These changes come just weeks after Tokyo organizers and the IOC said venues could allow up to 50 per cent capacity of fans to spectate. However, COVID-19 concerns have forced them to roll back plans.
Fans from abroad were banned several months ago.
To date, Japan has seen about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths.
Concerns have been raised about the Olympics being held while the pandemic is ongoing, with Tokyo’s medical community even calling for the event to be cancelled.
Many athletes, some Canadian, have also cited their concerns about travelling to Japan and taking part in sporting events.