THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
July 8, 2021 at 15:30 JST
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s dream of hosting boisterous Olympic crowds has now become as empty as the expected stands at the Tokyo Games.
After further restrictions on crowd sizes were announced, Suga and other government officials hoped that some of the seats at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics could still be filled with “special” spectators, such as Olympic organizers and sponsors.
But his government was expected to formally decide on July 8 to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo from July 12 to Aug. 22, well after the Tokyo Olympics are over.
A no-spectator option was left in place if a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo, according to a previous agreement reached between the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments as well as the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee.
Tokyo Olympic organizing committee sources said discussions were moving along to not allow any spectators in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.
A formal decision is expected on the evening of July 8.
Suga had also hoped that staging the Tokyo Games would represent humankind’s victory over the novel coronavirus.
But the pandemic is far from over, and virus infections continue to spread in Tokyo.
Once again, health experts advising the government pressed for stronger anti-virus measures in the capital, leading to the decision to issue the fourth state of emergency.
One expert on the government panel said a clear “no” would have been expressed if the government decided to only extend pre-emergency measures for Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures beyond July 11, the current deadline.
At a July 7 meeting of a different panel advising the health ministry, experts called for stronger restrictions in the capital, given that two-thirds of Japan’s new COVID-19 cases were concentrated in Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures.
Other figures showed that Tokyo had already entered the most serious stage 4 in terms of the spread of novel coronavirus infections.
The central government’s panel had set 25 as the cutoff point in the standard for new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a one-week period.
The figure as of July 6 for Tokyo was 30.29.
In contrast, the corresponding figures were 16.39 in Kanagawa Prefecture, 15.85 in Chiba Prefecture and 11.28 in Saitama Prefecture.
The figures for all four prefectures had increased from those of the previous week.
Tokyo has also seen increases in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and those with serious symptoms.
On June 20, 1,270 COVID-19 patients were being treated in hospitals in the capital. By July 6, the number had risen to 1,677.
The number of patients with serious symptoms also rose, from 37 on June 27 to 63 on July 6.
Researchers at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases have estimated that about 30 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the Kanto region can now be attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant.
The researchers added that unless strong measures are taken, the daily number of new cases in Tokyo would exceed 1,500 by the end of July.
(This article was compiled from reports by Keishi Nishimura, Ryuichi Hisanaga and Jun Tabushi.)
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