Japan has decided to ban all spectators at the 2021 Olympics, per USA Today. The country declared a state of emergency for Tokyo to contain coronavirus infections 16 days before the Games begin. According to The New York Times, it is the fourth time that Tokyo has been put under a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The priority will be to [have] safe and secure Games,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at a news conference following a meeting with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the government of Japan, the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee. “Faced with COVID-19 we have no other choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”
Having no spectators at the Olympics is obviously the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the Games could have fueled new surges of coronavirus infections. Organizers previously banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50% of capacity (up to 10,000 people) to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Per Reuters, Japan has had more than 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths due to COVID-19. Authorities have struggled with infections particularly in and around Tokyo, with 920 newly reported cases as of yesterday — the highest since May 13. Only a quarter of Japan’s population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot due to a slow vaccine rollout.
USA Today reports that the state of emergency will last until August 22. The Games begin on July 23 and end on August 8.