Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has formally declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, putting restrictions aimed at curbing coronavirus infections in place until 22 August.
“We will impose the state of emergency in Tokyo,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a government meeting on infection measures. “The period will be until August 22.”
On Wednesday, it was reported that Japan’s government was set to ban fans from all events at this month’s Games.
Organisers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50% of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain a lingering outbreak of infections.
The decision on spectators will be decided during five-way talks between main parties later on Thursday, according to newspaper reports.
The talks, scheduled for 8pm (1200 IST) will be chaired by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, who arrived in Tokyo on Thursday. Other participants include the Tokyo and national governments and Paralympic officials.
“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
“Given the situation, we will issue a state of emergency for Tokyo.”
Japan has not suffered the kind of explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen in many other countries but has had more than 810,000 cases and 14,900 deaths.
A slow vaccine rollout has meant only a quarter of the population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.
The new state of emergency in Tokyo comes as the capital announced 896 new daily infections on Thursday, near highs last seen in mid-May.
The new restrictions in Tokyo, under which restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol, will begin on Monday.
The Games are scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August, with this being a worrying occurrence.
Underscoring the last-minute nature of preparations, organisers have presented various spectator scenarios to Olympic sponsors as late as Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Sponsors were told that in the case of no spectators, all sports and opening and closing ceremonies would likely be held without fans, meaning tickets allocated to sponsors could not be used.
The absence of crowds will likely further strain the Games’ budget, which has already blown out to an estimated $15.4 billion, with ticket revenues of about $815 million expected to take a big hit.
The organising committee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Until this week, officials have insisted they could organise the Games safely with some spectators, but a ruling party setback in a Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, which some allies of Suga attributed to public anger over the Olympics, had forced the change of tack, sources said.
Japan will hold a parliamentary election later this year and the government’s insistence that the Games – postponed last year as the virus spread around the world – should go ahead this year could cost it at the ballot box, they said.