Photo/Illutration An online meeting is held on Aug. 16 involving, from left, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Seiko Hashimoto, chairwoman of the Tokyo Paralympic organizing committee, Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, and Tamayo Marukawa, state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Pool)

Tokyo Paralympic organizers decided to ban general spectators from the events that begin on Aug. 24, but schoolchildren will still be invited to attend despite the still surging number of new COVID-19 cases.

The decision was made Aug. 16 in a meeting involving the organizing committee, the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments and the International Paralympic Committee.

For the Tokyo Olympics, which ended on Aug. 8, the only venues that allowed spectators were in Miyagi and Shizuoka prefectures, where about 40,000 people took in the events.

And although Shizuoka Prefecture will host cycling competitions in the Paralympics, Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu said on Aug. 16 that he would ask the central government to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency to cover his jurisdiction as well.

Paralympic events will also be held in Tokyo, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, all now covered by the state of emergency. The expected request to include Shizuoka was the final factor behind the decision to have no spectators.

Refunds will be paid for the 770,000 or so tickets that have been sold for Paralympic events.

The only possibility of seeing the Paralympics live is if you are a student at a school taking part in a cooperative program to attend events as an educational experience.

But the local governments in charge of the schools will make the ultimate decision about whether any students can actually go.

Tetsuya Matsumoto, a professor of infectious diseases at the International University of Health and Welfare in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, said if the Paralympics are held, the infection-prevention measures should be even stiffer than those in place for the Olympics.

Matsumoto noted that although the so-called bubble was designed to keep Olympic athletes isolated from the general Japanese population, the monitoring system was inadequate, and there were numerous instances of athletes breaching that barrier.

He said the organizing committee was fortunate that no large infection clusters broke out among the athletes, given that the rules of the Olympic playbook to prevent a spread of infections were broken.

Although an anti-infection playbook has been compiled for the Paralympics, a high-ranking organizing committee official noted the added difficulties because many Paralympic athletes have pre-existing medical conditions that place them at increased risk of developing serious symptoms if infected.

And quarantining Paralympic athletes who test positive for COVID-19 would require further measures because many of them will need caretakers to help them in the hotel or other accommodations where they will be placed.

(This article was written by Daisuke Maeda and Yuki Edamatsu.)