Story at a glance
- Officials in Japan are considering allowing domestic spectators at the Tokyo Summer Games as COVID-19 cases decline across the country.
- The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily newspaper, reported that officials are considering allowing up to 10,000 spectators per event.
- The rising optimism has coincided with an acceleration in vaccination rates.
Officials in Japan are considering allowing domestic spectators at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as COVID-19 cases decline across the country.
President of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee Seiko Hashimoto has been firm that the Olympics would go on as planned despite fears that the games could produce a new virus variant.
The Asahi Shimbun, a daily Japanese newspaper, reported that officials are considering allowing up to 10,000 spectators per event. One official told the outlet that “the athletes will not be able to give their best performances with zero spectators.” Current restrictions stipulate sporting events can host spectators at up to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity.
An official decision to host domestic spectators at the summer games would come after Japan’s state of emergency is lifted June 21.
Medical professionals have warned the games’ organizers that holding the Olympics, even without spectators, raises a major public health concern. Shigeru Omi, the head of an expert panel advising the Japanese government on COVID-19 risks at the Tokyo games, said last week that "it’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this."
“If we are going to hold the Games under these circumstances … then I think it’s the Olympic organizers’ responsibility to downsize the scale of the event and strengthen coronavirus control measures as much as possible,” Omi said.
Meanwhile, the rising optimism has coincided with an acceleration in vaccination rates. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga changed the country's vaccine policy at the end of May to include individuals under 65 into the vaccination plan. And colleges and companies can start vaccinating students and employees June 21, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
New daily COVID-19 cases have fallen considerably in the past month. Amid the surge of public health warnings, Japan’s daily case rate sat above 3,000. Average new cases peaked May 14 with more than 6,000 reported infections. Johns Hopkins University data shows that the country reported 2,245 cases in the past day.
The 2020 games are slated to begin July 21.
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