Japan changes restrictions in Tokyo to “quasi-emergency” ahead of Olympic Games

Published on : Friday, June 18, 2021

Japan has decided to lift the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka on Sunday, June 20 but will continue to impose curbs under a “quasi-emergency” which will be less strict than the existing restrictions. The decision comes ahead of the Olympic Games set to begin on July 23.

It is yet to be decided how many domestic visitors will be allowed in the stadiums to watch the Olympic Games. As confirmed earlier, international visitors have been officially barred from attending Olympics this year.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is reportedly keen on having Japanese ticketholders fill the stands. A current cap of 5,000 or half of venue capacity, whichever is lower, will be eased next month and an upper limit of 10,000 people will be introduced.

Spectators will be expected to wear masks and refrain from cheering. The state of emergency is ongoing in 10 prefectures, with regions being added to the list across several weeks. The emergency will now be lifted on all areas except Okinawa. It will remain under emergency measures until July 11 due to burden on medical hospitals.

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo were placed under emergency restrictions on April 25, followed by Aichi and Fukuoka on May 12, and then Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama on May 16, and finally Okinawa on May 23. Of the other nine areas, seven will come under the “quasi-emergency” restrictions until July 11, with only Hiroshima and Okayama escaping COVID-19 curbs altogether.

Separately, the three prefectures that border Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa will also be under “quasi-emergency” measures until July 11. Japan’s emergency measures have been far less strict than the lockdowns and circuit breakers in other countries. Museums, gyms, shopping malls, cinemas and theatres are among those that remain open with few restrictions, and there is neither compulsory location check-ins nor pre-event testing.

But Tokyo and Osaka have been under either a COVID-19 emergency or “quasi-emergency” for all but four weeks so far this year. The “quasi-emergency” is said to be necessary for the authorities to curb movement to prevent a spike in cases during the Olympic Games. An 8pm curfew on dine-in service at eateries will remain under “quasi-emergency” areas, though a blanket ban on alcohol sales will be relaxed to allow such sales until 7PM for parties of up to two people.

Mr Suga’s vow to achieve a 70 percent reduction in people making the daily commute to work is also not met as more companies mandate in-person attendance. Parks and other public spaces are packed, with little to differentiate from normalcy beyond masks and curfews. A study by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases released on Wednesday suggested that the latest emergency has shown “little statistical effect” in Tokyo.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a press statement that the rate of decline in infections has slowed and because of the emergence of variants, there is a risk that cases may increase. He mentioned that given the circumstances, people need to be vigilant to ensure there is no rebound, and remain focused in implementing anti-virus measures.

He also asked citizens to continue the restrictions in order to regain normalcy in lives and requested for understanding and cooperation. He added that mankind has faced the daunting challenge of COVID-19, and now is the time to unite and show the world that people can overcome the difficulty through the efforts and wisdom of the people.


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