Japan announced Friday that it was extending the latest COVID-19 state of emergency in the country through mid-June, adding even more questions and doubt about the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo in July.
Japan’s current state of emergency was due to expire on Monday, though the country opted to extend the order — which impacts a significant portion of the country, including Tokyo and Osaka — through June 20, according to The Associated Press.
The Olympics are currently scheduled to start on July 23, almost one month after the emergency order is now set to expire.
Japan has had more than 735,000 cases as of Friday morning, according to The New York Times, and more than 12,500 deaths attributed to it. The country is averaging more than 4,200 new cases each day, though only roughly 2% of citizens are fully vaccinated.
There has been growing opposition, both in Japan and internationally, to cancel the Games completely. Polls in Japan, per The Associated Press, show that between 60-80% of Japanese citizens do not want the games to go forward. The International Olympic Committee, however, is moving ahead.
“The IOC has the authority to decide [to cancel the Olympics],” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last month. “And the IOC has already decided to hold the Tokyo olympics.
Will any fans be allowed to attend the Olympics?
Organizers have already announced that international fans will not be allowed to attend the Games.
As for local fans, it now seems unlikely that they will be allowed to attend either — meaning that the entire Olympics could be held in empty venues.
The organizing committee initially said that they would decide on whether to let local fans attend or not by April, though that date has been pushed back.
“We would like to make a decision as soon as possible [on fans], but after the state fo emergency is lifted we will assess,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said, via The Associated Press.
That deadline, assuming the emergency order is in fact lifted on June 20, could then come just one month before the opening ceremonies.
“There are many people who are saying that for the Olympic Games we have to run without spectators, although other sports are accepting spectators," Hashimoto said, via The Associated Press. "So we need to keep that in mind. We need to avoid that the local medical services are affected. We need to take those things into consideration before agreeing on the spectator count.”
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