Covid-19: Japan considering barring all fans at Olympics events, says report

Reuters Tokyo | Updated on July 07, 2021

Organisers have already banned overseas spectators

Japan’s government is floating proposals that would ban fans from all events at this month’s Olympics, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday, as officials scramble to address public concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Medical experts have said for weeks that no spectators at the global sporting extravaganza that starts on July 23 would be the least risky option. Organisers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50 per cent of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain a lingering outbreak of infections.

The Mainichi, citing sources within government, said such discussions were partly the result of political considerations after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s ruling party failed to win a majority in an election for Tokyo’s assembly on Sunday. The vote, ahead of a general election later this year, was seen as reflecting some voter dissatisfaction over the government’s virus response.

Logistical hurdles

The report further highlights the steep logistical challenges surrounding the Games, which have been dogged by a year of near-daily debate about its possible impact on the spread of Covid-19 in Japan.

In response to the Mainichi story, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said restrictions on the number of spectators, including non-spectator competitions, will be based on the content of the state of emergency or other relevant measures in force at any time after July 12.

On Thursday, the government is likely to extend a state of quasi-emergency in Tokyo and three nearby prefectures beyond an original end-date of July 11, government sources have said.

Tokyo assembly split after vote amid pandemic Olympics fears

Kyodo News reported the extension would likely last a month,meaning the curbs will be in place throughout the Olympics, which close on August 8.

The issue of spectators at other Olympic events is due to be decided at five-way talks on Thursday including the Tokyo governor and IOC President Thomas Bach, who arrives in Japan that day.

Asked about the issue of spectators at a press conference on Tuesday, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Suga has said holding the Games without spectators was a possibility.

Olympics to taste the Thums Up thunder

In another blow to the spectacle of the Games, Tokyo organisers announced on Tuesday they would ask the public not to gather on the streets for the Olympic marathon, one of the most popular and iconic events of the Games.

Tokyo’s metropolitan government has also decided to move most of the torch relay, set to reach the capital on Friday, off public roads.

Japan has not experienced the kind of explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen elsewhere but has seen more than 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths. A slow roll-out has meant only a quarter of its population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot.

Published on July 07, 2021

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