As Tokyo Olympics looms, Japan’s PM unsure whether to have spectators

The rescheduled Tokyo Olympic games is just weeks away, but the Prime Minister is reportedly still not sure about whether there should be fans in the stands. 

Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday that no fans at the games was still a possibility, the Hill reported. Suga, International Olympic Committee, Tokyo, the country’s organizing committee and the International Paralympic Committee will be meeting in the near future to make a final decision on Olympic spectators.

An earlier decision said that 10,000 fans could attend the games if emergency measures are lifted by the time the games start at the end of July, but that decision got pushback because of a small increase in cases in Japan in recent days.

The delta variant is thought to have caused the increase, and officials are worried that thousands of fans congregating will make transmission worse.

New restrictions possible in Japan

A previous state of emergency was lifted in June, although restrictions on restaurants and bars are still in effect, but the increase may lead to a new wave of restrictions, according to the Hill.

Only 12% of Japanese are fully vaccinated and only 23% have at least one dose of the vaccine, which is a much lower vaccination rate than the U.S. and most of Europe.

Furthermore, the Olympics requires international travel for participants, and countries have a variety of vaccination levels, with some below 1% of the population fully vaccinated.

The World Health Organization warned this week that crowds gathering for European soccer tournaments may be driving a recent 10% increase in new coronavirus cases there.

Large and small gatherings

While only a few thousand tickets were allocated for each country, tens of thousands reportedly traveled to London ahead of the tournament anyway. Besides the game itself, there were countless smaller gatherings to watch and celebrate the event, officials said.

“If this mixing is happening among people who are not fully vaccinated and there is the presence of the virus, there will be cases. This is not unexpected,” WHO emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said.

A total of 60,000 fans will be allowed to attend each of the last three games of the tournament in London.

As for the Olympics, it will be widely televised around the world whether or not fans are allowed, but will change the experience for those participating and viewing if stadiums and performance areas are empty of fans.

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