Tokyo Under Third State of Emergency as COVID-19 Cases Rise in Japan Ahead of Olympics

Japan placed Tokyo and three other areas within the country under a state of emergency to slow the spread of COVID-19

Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Tokyo Summer Olympics logo. Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty

Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo this week to help slow rising COVID-19 cases in the country, a move that comes just three months before the start of the Summer Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the announcement as Tokyo and three prefectures — Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo — have recently experienced a sharp increase in cases of the deadly respiratory virus, according to NPR.

While the areas will not have to go into a full lockdown, restaurants and businesses will be under restrictions, the outlet reported. Places that sell alcohol or offer karaoke will experience the strictest limitations.

The policies will go into effect starting Sunday, and will tentatively last until May 11, about two months before the beginning of the Games, which were already delayed from their original start date in July of last year.

Overall, Japan has experienced 556,697 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 4,495 of them coming in the last seven days, according to a New York Times database.

Tokyo Olympic stadium
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"The end should be in sight," the prime minister said during his announcement, as reported by ABC News. "The state of emergency is now declared. From the bottom of my heart, I ask for your cooperation."

The outlet said Japan is likely experiencing a resurgence in cases fueled by a highly contagious variant of the virus first detected in the United Kingdom in 2020.

"In Japan, we are entering a new phase," Dr. Shigeru Omi, head of the COVID-19 advisory panel, said. "The infections are becoming more widespread in younger populations."

With the Summer Olympics scheduled to begin in Tokyo on July 23, the country has enacted a series of new precautions ahead of the event to hold off the possibility of another cancelation — which they admit is still a possibility.

Last month, officials announced no overseas spectators will be allowed at the Games. The decision came after a meeting including the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee and local organizers.

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There will also be a ban on physical touch, according to a handbook released by the International Olympic Committee.

Under the new guidelines, athletes and Olympic officials must always wear a face mask unless they are sleeping, eating or at least six feet away from others while outside. Physical contact — such as hugs, handshakes and high-fives — should also be avoided. Athletes also won't be allowed to watch the events as spectators or travel using public transportation.

On April 15, a senior White House official said they believed it's too early to recommend whether or not U.S. athletes travel to Japan for the Olympics.

"We think the Olympics is a wonderful tradition," the official said, "but at the same time, right now, it is probably slightly too early to make a call about what to expect."

Despite millions of Americans getting vaccinated, nearly half of U.S. states saw a rise in cases last week, according to CNN.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.

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