TOKYO (Reuters) - Olympic host city Tokyo has entered a new state of emergency, less than two weeks before the Games begin amid worries about whether the measures can stem a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Organizers last week announced that spectators would be banned from nearly all venues. Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people, which could spread contagion, to a minimum.
Opinion polls have consistently shown the Japanese public is concerned about going ahead with the Games during the pandemic.
Prime Mininster Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the pandemic - including an initially slow vaccination rollout - has eroded his support. The issue is especially sensitive ahead of a national election and a ruling party leadership race due later this year.
“We would ask people to support athletes from home,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on a Sunday TV program.
The Games, postponed from last year because of the pandemic, run from July 23 to August 8, while the state of emergency - the capital’s fourth - lasts until August 22, shortly before the Paralympics begin.
The government and organizers had long seen the Games as a chance to display Japan’s recovery from a devastating 2011 earthquake and nuclear crisis.
On Saturday, the governor of Fukushima prefecture, site of the nuclear disaster, said spectators would also be banned from softball and baseball games there, reversing an earlier decision.