Thomas Bach the IOC President arrived in Tokyo on Thursday to find Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga set to declare a state of emergency, which is likely to result in a ban on fans at the Tokyo Olympics as coronavirus infections spread across the capital.
Avoiding the cameras Bach reached at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and, on a rainy afternoon, went to the International Olympic Committee’s games headquarters in Tokyo which is a five-star hotel located in the center of the city. He is reported to need to self-isolate for three days.
Just two weeks before the postponed Tokyo Olympics are set to open Bach arrived. The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community.
The government officials at a meeting with medical experts on Thursday proposed a plan to issue a state of emergency in Tokyo from next Monday through Aug 22.
The Olympics are to begin on July 23 and close Aug. 8. The major concern of the emergency is for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol are requested to be closed. Including that a ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the Games on TV from home.
Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said, “How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue.”
The current state of emergency ends on Sunday. On Wednesday Tokyo recorded 920 new cases that was up from 714 a week earlier. It was the 18th straight day of week-on-week increases, and was the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.
Fans from all across the world were banned from attending the Olympics months ago. But just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC decided to allow venues to be filled to 50% of capacity but crowds not to exceed 10,000. The state-of-emergency will force them to change plans again with a decision probably coming later on Thursday.
The rising cases are likely to mean that venues will be without any fans, although sponsors and others may have access. The no-fan atmosphere could include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium.
The uptick in infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to pull the Olympic torch relay off capital streets, allowing it to run only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It’s unclear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.
“The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it,” Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, told reporters.
He urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics, with summer vacations approaching. Omi has repeatedly called for a ban on fans, and has said it’s “abnormal” to hold the Olympics during a pandemic. Separately, a government COVID-19 advisory panel met Wednesday and expressed concerns about the ongoing resurgence of the infections.
“Two-thirds of the infections in the capital region are from Tokyo, and our concern is the spread of the infections to neighboring areas,” said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.