Olympics to be held without spectators in Tokyo and surrounding areas
Tokyo Station on May 20 (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced tonight that Tokyo will go into another State of Emergency as cases of COVID-19 rise in the nation's capital. This will be the 4th State of Emergency since March 2020 with this one set to start on July 12 and last until at least August 22. During this period of time, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games will be held in the prefecture and surrounding areas, which will remain in a quasi-State of Emergency.
The island prefecture of Okinawa, who are currently in their own State of Emergency will also remain under the declaration until August 22.
With Tokyo 2020 less than a couple of weeks away, and the Delta variant of the coronavirus becoming more prevalent, street events and torch relays have been canceled all over Japan. COVID-19 has also already appeared in the Olympic Village, with two workers testing positive before it officially opens to athletes and international staff. Various staff members and players who have entered the country are in isolation after testing positive.
Suga said tonight that the declaration is a “precautionary measure. We must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants.” Tokyo recorded 920 new cases yesterday, the highest since the middle of May. Though, Suga noted that if the situation improves as more people get vaccinated, the State of Emergency will be lifted early.
Akihabara on June 11 (Photo: Daryl Harding)
The restrictions this time around in Tokyo and Okinawa will see alcohol not allowed to be served to customers at all. Establishments that comply will be allowed to remain out until 8 PM. In the areas where a quasi-State of Emergency is in effect, places will be allowed to sell alcohol until 7 PM.
Events will be allowed to be held until 9 AM, and are capped at 5,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is fewer people, and department stores, movie theaters, and exhibition halls will be allowed to remain open until certain times of the day.
It was confirmed tonight that the Olympics will be held with no spectators in the Tokyo area and the surrounding prefectures. 3.63 million tickets were sold for the games in the lead-up, with over 90 billion yen (US$820,785,942) to be refunded to ticket holders. The Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Norihisa Tamura, has asked residents to watch the Olympics at home and avoid “high-risk activities.” He explained that he was excited to watch the games on TV at night with his family.
In 2021, Tokyo has been under the State of Emergency declaration more times throughout the year than not, with varying levels of restrictions, and varying levels of success. The last State of Emergency ended on June 20.
UPDATE: News of spectators for the Olympics was announced later in the night and has since been added in.
If you or someone you know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.