Tokyo governor asks for COVID-19 state of emergency to be extended ahead of Olympics
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Wednesday asked the central government for an extension on Japan’s state of emergency, citing the persistent, elevated coronavirus infection rates as the country prepares for the 2021 Summer Olympics.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Koike was not alone in her request, with numerous other regional leaders in Japan calling on the country’s government to extend the state of emergency past its current end date coming Monday.
The request, which is likely to be granted later this week, will likely go through June 20, about a month before the scheduled opening ceremony for the Olympics.
“Lifting it now would risk a resurgence of infections soon,” Koike said of the impending end date to the state of emergency.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many observers both in and out of Japan to call for the Olympics to be canceled.
Major Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun called on the games to be canceled in an editorial published this week. A poll conducted by the newspaper earlier this month found that 83 percent of Japan’s population is against hosting the Olympics at this time, with 43 percent saying it should be canceled and 40 percent saying it should be postponed. Both figures were higher than when the same survey was conducted in April.
In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday, a group of scientists called for the Olympics to be canceled as it “may be the safest option.”
“With less than 2 months until the Olympic torch is lit, canceling the Games may be the safest option,” the scientists wrote. “But the Olympic Games are one of the few events that could connect us at a time of global disconnect.”
The Journal notes that lawyer and former candidate for Tokyo governor Kenji Utsunomiya began an online petition earlier this month to have the games canceled. According to Utsunomiya, the number of signatures may soon surpass 400,000.
The U.S. State Department on Monday issued a travel advisory warning against going to Japan.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Japan due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country. There are restrictions in place affecting U.S. citizen entry into Japan,” the notice from the department read.