Coronavirus Global situation

Japan may downgrade emergency state till Olympics start

Targeted curbs could include asking eateries to keep shorter hours; final decision expected late next week

The National Stadium in Tokyo built for the Olympic Games, which were postponed from last year to July 23 this year. A team of experts expect summer holidays and the Games to spark a rise in infections and the spread of new variants in the country.
The National Stadium in Tokyo built for the Olympic Games, which were postponed from last year to July 23 this year. A team of experts expect summer holidays and the Games to spark a rise in infections and the spread of new variants in the country.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The Japanese government is considering ending a state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures as scheduled, but keeping a downgraded "quasi-emergency" until the Olympics start, the Mainichi daily reported.

New coronavirus infections in Tokyo have inched down during the last month of emergency restrictions although the authorities remain concerned about the spread of variants and the continued strain on medical resources.

The newspaper reported yesterday that the government will ask restaurants to keep shorter hours and impose other curbs under the targeted quasi-emergency measures.

Bars and restaurants are now asked to close by 8pm and banned from serving alcohol.

A final decision is expected late next week, a few days before the end of the current emergency state on June 20. The emergency also covers northern prefecture Hokkaido, host of the Olympic marathon event.

The Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23. The Japanese government and Olympic organisers have said the Games will go ahead - barring "Armageddon", as one International Olympic Committee member put it.

Polls have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games, as they worry about the flood of foreign athletes and officials. The country has effectively been closed to foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out last year.

A team of experts led by government adviser Hiroshi Nishiura said this week that Japan could be forced to declare another state of emergency in August if the current measures were lifted on June 20. The experts expect summer holidays and the Games to spark a rise in infections and the spread of new variants.

Tokyo 2020 coronavirus expert Nobuhiko Okabe said completely shutting out the virus would be too difficult and the focus should be on minimising risk.

The country plans to finish inoculating all those who want jabs by November, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in Parliament this week. Only 12 per cent of its population have received at least one vaccination shot.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'Japan may downgrade emergency state till Olympics start'. Subscribe