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Olympics-Japan looks to extend COVID-19 states of emergency ahead of Games

Berita 24 English -  Japan is considering extending the state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by approximately three weeks, until June...

Berita 24 English - 
Japan is considering extending the state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by approximately three weeks, until June 20, a cabinet minister said on Friday, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating less two months before the Summer Olympics begin.

The capital's state of emergency was set to end on May 31, but strains on the medical system continue to be severe. Okinawa, Japan's southernmost island, is already under a state of emergency that will expire on June 20.

Japan has recently seen a record number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition, despite a decline in new infections.

"In Osaka and Tokyo, the flow of people is increasing, and there are concerns that infections will increase," Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at the start of a meeting with experts.

The government's proposal was later approved by the experts, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce the extended state of emergency later on Friday.

Concerns about novel coronavirus variants and a sluggish vaccination drive have prompted urgent calls from doctors, some prominent business leaders, and hundreds of thousands of citizens to call off the Olympic Games, scheduled to begin on July 23.

The Japanese government, Olympic organizers, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have stated that the Games will proceed under strict virus-prevention measures. The IOC's Vice President for Preparations, John Coates, stated last week that the Games were on track. whether or not the host city, Tokyo, is currently in a state of emergency.

Approximately 727,000 coronavirus infections and 12,597 deaths have been reported in Japan thus far. According to Reuters data, only about 6% of its population has been vaccinated, the lowest rate among the world's largest, wealthiest countries.


The IOC's apparent dismissal of Japanese concerns has sparked outrage on social media, with IOC President Thomas Bach telling an International Athletes Forum on Thursday: "Come to Tokyo with complete confidence and prepare."

"I wish I could say shut up,'" one Twitter user stated. "Let us slam the IOC for its denigration of Japan and put an end to these insane Olympics."

According to polls, most Japanese want the Games, which were postponed last year due to COVID-19, either cancelled or rescheduled.

That is concerning for Suga, whose popularity has dwindled due to his handling of the COVID-19 response and who faces a general election and ruling party leadership race later this year.

However, the cancellation would entail a political risk for the premier, according to some ruling party lawmakers.

"The disadvantages would outweigh the advantages," Reuters quoted Liberal Democratic Party MP Hajime Funada as saying. "It would convey the message that Japan is in such dire straits that it is incapable of hosting the Games."

The European Union and Japan backed Tokyo's bid to host the Olympic Games this year in a joint statement following a Thursday summit.

According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union has authorized the export of more than 100 million vaccine doses to Japan, which is enough to inoculate roughly 40% of the population. "Of course, we've stated that we're looking forward to the Olympics," she told a news conference.

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