Tokyo, host city of the Summer Olympics, entered a new state of emergency on Monday, 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 Minister 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, the site of the nuclear disaster, said spectators would also be banned from softball and baseball games there, reversing an earlier decision.
World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic said on Sunday he was “50-50” about competing at the Tokyo Olympics following the organizers’ decision to ban fans from attending and limits on the number of people he can take to the Games.
Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Serena Williams, and Simona Halep have already said that they will skip the Games.
Japan has recorded more than 815,440 COVID-19 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths.