With less than a month to go before the Tokyo Olympics begin, the host city is seeing a startling rise in daily coronavirus cases.
Tokyo reported 317 new infections on Monday this week, an increase of 81 on the same day last week. Cases have continued to rise throughout the week, with 476 and 714 positive cases on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. The 7-day moving average had been steadily declining after a peak in May, but has now risen to more than 500, compared to around 380 in the middle of June.
With the Olympics due to start on July 23, the Japanese government has not ruled out imposing further restrictions, including emergency measures, to combat the rising number of cases. Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government minister in charge of coronavirus response, has reportedly said the government would ‘not hesitate’ to put a new state of emergency in place if necessary. According to NHK, the country’s public broadcaster, Nishimura said the government would monitor hospital beds and ‘consider taking further measures without hesitation’.
Meanwhile Yasuhiro Yamashita, president of the Japan Olympic Committee, admitted that the Olympics would lead to an increase in cases, the Guardian reported. ‘No matter what measures you take, infected people will come in … it is unavoidable,’ he said. ‘Strict border controls at airports are extremely important.’
Earlier this month the Japanese government downgraded the state of emergency restrictions in Tokyo and nine other prefectures, although the city remains under a ‘quasi’ state of emergency with bars only allowed to sell alcohol until 7pm.
In May, John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, said the Tokyo Games would go ahead ‘regardless of whether there is a state of emergency or not’, provided that there was adequate protection for the Japanese public.
He said: ‘The advice we have got from the World Health Organisation and all of the scientific advice, is that all the measures we have outlined in the playbook, all those measures are satisfactory to ensure a safe and secure Games in terms of health, and that's whether there is a state of emergency or not.’
However, in the same month, a poll by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun found that more than 80% of the Japanese public did not want the Games to go ahead. 40% said they wanted the Olympics to be delayed again, while 43% said they wanted the competition to be cancelled altogether.
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