Japan Could Back Out of Allowing Local Fans at Olympics as Potential New State of Emergency Looms

Japan has been struggling to control another rise in COVID-19 cases in the weeks ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and has faced repeated criticism from the medical community for moving forward with the event

Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Jinhee Lee/NurPhoto via Getty

Parts of Japan are expected to enter another state of emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country nearly two weeks before the Summer Olympics begin in Tokyo.

According to the Associated Press, Tokyo reported 920 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, a rise of 714 from the same time last week. The increase has reportedly prompted Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to consider implementing a new state of emergency in Tokyo — Japan's capital — to last until Aug. 22, the outlet said.

The Olympics are scheduled to take place in the city from July 23 to Aug. 8. The Paralympics will kick off in Tokyo on Aug. 24.

There has been continued pressure for Japan to cancel or postpone the Games as the Olympic opening ceremony approaches. In May, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association — which represents more than 6,000 primary care doctors — penned an open letter to Suga asking the government to convince the International Olympics Committee to nix this year's Olympics altogether, Reuters reported.

The letter came after a survey of Japanese residents found nearly 60 percent supported the event's cancelation.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Man in mask standing near Olympic rings in Tokyo. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty

So far, Japan has banned overseas spectators from attending the Games, including the families of the athletes — save for competitors' breastfeeding children — in an attempt to quell concerns about the event causing a spike in COVID-19 transmissions.

The Associated Press said IOC President Thomas Bach will arrive in Tokyo on Thursday, where he is expected to meet with local organizers and IOC members to discuss whether spectators should be prohibited from the Olympics as well. A final decision is expected Friday, the outlet noted.

After a previous meeting between the IOC and other Olympic organizations, Japan said it would allow up to 10,000 people to attend Games venues. Guests would have had to follow social distancing guidelines and be required to wear a mask at all times, while also being prohibited from shouting or cheering.

According to a New York Times database, only 15 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The country averages just over 20 deaths from the illness every day.

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"The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it," said government medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, according to AP.

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The outlet noted that estimates show that the IOC would lose between $3 billion and $4 billion if the Games are canceled.

To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23rd on NBC.

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