Japan announced Thursday that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will not have spectators in attendance, reversing course amid a rise in new coronavirus cases ahead of the Games, which are starting later this month.
The announcement was made after a meeting with five Olympic officials and representatives from the Japanese government.
"Today, following the decision by the Government of Japan (GoJ) to announce a state of emergency in Tokyo, the five parties, namely the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the GoJ came together for a meeting," the IOC said in a statement to The Hill.
"The IOC and IPC, respecting this decision, support it in the interest of safe and secure Games for everybody. At the same time, all five parties deeply regret for the athletes and for the spectators that this measure had to be put in place for the reasons outlined above," it said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday declared a two-week state of emergency because of the spike in COVID-19 cases in Japan. The state of the emergency will run through the entirety of the Olympic Games, which were pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"A very heavy judgment was made,” Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, told CNN, adding that, due to the pandemic, “they have no choice but to hold the games in a limited way.”
According to CNN, the Japanese government is considering allowing spectators at venues that are not covered by the state of emergency.
Japan has had a low number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus compared with the United States, partly as a result of the widespread use of masks by the public.
But the vaccination campaign has been much slower than in the United States.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan has had more than 810,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 14,900 deaths. Only 15 percent of the county is fully vaccinated, the AP reported.
Olympic organizers announced in March that foreign fans would be barred from attending games and in June shared that a limited number of fans will be able to attend the games, with capacity capped at 50 percent and a maximum of 10,000 fans, according to a USA Today report.
According to The Associated Press, Tokyo has reported 896 new COVID-19 cases, which is up from 673 last week.
Japan health officials have shared their own concerns about holding the event, calling for either a spectator ban or a cancellation of the event, which was already postponed from last year.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is set to begin on July 23.
Updated at 11:21 a.m.