State of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo declared on April 25, just three months before the Olympics.
Japan has declared a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures as the country struggles to contain a resurgent coronavirus pandemic just three months before the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the emergency on Friday for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 to May 11.
The step is largely intended as “short and intense” to prevent people from traveling and spreading the virus during Japan’s Golden Week holidays from late April to the first week of May, Suga said.
Japan has reported more than 550,000 coronavirus cases, including 9,805 deaths, as of Friday since the start of the pandemic. But a recent surge in cases has worried medical officials and professionals as the government and Olympic organizers insist the Games will go ahead in July and August of this year.
Earlier, Japan’s virus response minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, warned of a “strong sense of crisis”, saying the current restrictions weren’t enough.
The measures will be tougher than Japan’s latest state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country since January, but still far below the blockades seen in some parts of the world.
Authorities want bars and restaurants to stop selling alcohol or close and close major commercial establishments such as shopping malls.
Spectators will also be excluded from sporting events, which can continue behind closed doors, and remote work will be encouraged.
Although measures start on Sunday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has urged residents to immediately start taking precautions, including avoiding drinking on the street after bars and restaurants close early.
He urged companies to turn off the lights in the evening to encourage people to stay away.
“After 8:00 pm, we ask that the street lights, neon signs and lighting be turned off,” he said. “It will be dark at night, with only the street lamps on,” he added, “to curb the flow of people.”
‘It is not possible’
On Friday, Tokyo recorded 759 cases, while Osaka recorded 1,162 new infections, slightly down from record numbers earlier in the week.
Authorities in Osaka said health facilities were already overwhelmed and beds for seriously ill patients were about to run out.
Officials insist the situation will not affect preparations for the Games, with Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto telling reporters on Friday that “we are not thinking about cancellation.”
“We are thinking about how we can prepare ourselves in a way that prioritizes safety and makes people feel that it can be kept safe, and makes them want it to be kept,” Hashimoto said.
But the spike in infections is already disrupting everything from the Olympic torch relay – which was forced off public roads in several regions – to test events and qualifiers.
The Australian diving team withdrew from the Scuba World Cup scheduled for May in Tokyo on Friday, saying it was “not safe” to travel to Japan.
Japan’s vaccination schedule is moving slowly with just over 1.5 million people receiving a first shot and only about 827,000 fully vaccinated.