Japan plans to allow some spectators at Olympics, says TV Asahi

Spectators will be required to provide a negative virus test or a vaccination certificate. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan is preparing to hold next month's Olympics with some spectators present, even as experts warn it will be difficult to stage the games unless the pace of infections falls in the capital, according to media reports.

Organisers are preparing to let domestic fans attend the games and spectators would be required to provide a negative virus test or a vaccination certificate, TV Asahi said on Tuesday (June 1). Fans from overseas are not allowed to see the events in person.

Preparations for the Olympics are stepping up despite continued opposition from a public concerned that what was intended to be a celebration of the world's victory over the virus could instead become a superspreader event.

A slow start to the country's vaccination programme means only about 12 million doses have been administered to Japan's 126 million people, leaving the bulk of the population at risk.

Separately, some members of a government expert panel say the current level of virus spread - defined by the authorities as "explosive" - would make it hard to stage the Olympics from July 23, the Asahi newspaper reported. The experts are set to publish their opinion this month, the paper said.

Japan's government has laid out four levels of concern under the pandemic, based on metrics including the pace of infections and the availability of hospital beds. With the seven-day moving average of new cases in Tokyo still more than 500, the capital remains in the most serious category - Stage 4.

Despite the worry over the numbers, Japan still has the lowest overall infection numbers among Group of Seven countries. It posted a daily average of 3,634 new cases over the seven days to May 30, compared with a figure of 20,055 in the United States in the same period.

Tokyo is one of nine areas in Japan under a state of emergency set to end on June 21, about a month before the opening ceremony for the Olympics. Bars and restaurants in the affected areas have been banned from selling alcohol and must close by 8pm.

About 1,600 people have already entered the country in connection with the sports spectacular, according to the Nikkei newspaper, including the Australian softball team. All visitors during the Olympics will face restrictions on their movements to control the spread of the virus.

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