Tokyo has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, hitting a two-month high that makes the possibility of the Japanese government declaring a new state of emergency during the Tokyo Olympics almost certain.
On Wednesday, 920 new cases were reported in Tokyo, which is up from 714 on last Wednesday. It’s the highest number of new cases since May 13, when 1,010 were reported.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is reportedly considering reinstating a state of emergency in Tokyo until Aug. 22, which would extend past the end of the Olympics on Aug. 8.
A new state of emergency could ban even local fans from attending.
There is a current quasi-state of emergency which is set to end on Sunday. The decision for a new state of emergency is expected Friday when the local organizers and International Olympics Committee meet.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
The pandemic-delayed Olympics open in just over two weeks on July 23.
IOC President Thomas Bach is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday, when he will be greeted by the rising cases as he self-isolates for three days in the International Olympic Committee’s five-star hotel in the capital.
Suga did not confirm the report but noted Tokyo’s upsurge and vowed “to do everything we can to prevent the further spread of the infections.”
Suga said he would make a final decision Thursday after consulting with a panel of experts.
Fans from abroad were banned from attending the Olympics months ago. But just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC decided to allow venues to be filed to 50 percent of capacity but not to exceed 10,000.
The soaring cases are likely to mean that venues will be without any fans, although sponsors and others may have access. The no-fan atmosphere could include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium.
“The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it,” Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, told reporters.
He urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics with summer vacations approaching.
“The period from July to September is the most critical time for Japan’s COVID-19 measures,” Omi said.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters she expects the government to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, a fourth for the capital since the pandemic began early last year.
Separately, a government COVID-19 advisory panel met Wednesday and expressed concerns about the ongoing resurgence of the infections.
“Two-thirds of the infections in the capital region are from Tokyo, and our concern is the spread of the infections to neighboring areas,” said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement of 15 months stalled the IOC’s income flow. It gets almost 75 percent of its income from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose between $3 billion and $4 billion if the Olympics were canceled.
Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15 percent of the Japanese are fully vaccinated, still low compared to 47.4 percent in the United States and almost 50 percent in Britain.