The Japanese central government has declared a third state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, bringing new restrictions to Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo.
The new restrictions come just 3 months ahead of Tokyo’s hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which begin on July 23. The current declaration will last for 17 days through May 11 as the country attempts to slow infections during the upcoming Golden Week holidays of late April and early May.
While a lot can change in the three months between now and the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, the timing of the new declaration is significant for many reasons. For one, Tokyo is scheduled to host the final Olympic qualifying event for diving from May 1-6. Some countries, including Australia, have already announced that they are withdrawing.
The other significant upcoming event is the decision on how many spectators to allow into Olympic venues. While the organizers have already said that foreign spectators won’t be allowed, a decision on domestic attendance is now on the table. Originally, a decision was promised by the end of April, but the latest comments from Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, says that decision may be postponed until as late as June.
Japan has had a total of 562,141 confirmed cases of coronavirus leading to 9,913 deaths throughout the pandemic, according to data compiled by worldometers, relatively-low figures for the country’s population of almost 130 million
Recent spikes have the country averaging around 4,500 new daily infections, the country’s highest levels of infection since a January wave. Health officials have attributed new variants for the rapid rise in new cases.
The new measures are not as restrictive as the country has used in the past, stopping short of a full lockdown. The new rules impose limits on restaurants and other businesses. Places that sell alcohol or offer karaoke will be subjected to the strictest measures, being closed completely. Other establishments will be asked to close at 8 PM.
While the government says that there are fines associated with the new measures, they largely rely on voluntary compliance.
The spike in cases has resulted in a reroute of much of the Olympic torch relay so far away from public roads to minimize gathering crowds.