Tokyo — Spectators will be banned frombecause of a new state of emergency imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus, Japan’s Olympic minister said Thursday, meaning the Games will happen mostly behind closed doors.
“We reached an agreement on no spectators at venues in Tokyo,” Tamayo Marukawa said after talks involving local and national government officials, organizers and Olympic and Paralympic chiefs.
Most Olympic competition will happen in Tokyo, but a few events will be held outside the Japanese capital.
CBS News’ Lucy Craft reports that the news came shortly after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that a sharp spike in infections, and the spread of the Delta variant in particular, had compelled the government to once again declare a state of emergency for Tokyo. The restrictions are scheduled to last until late August, after the summer holiday, and when Japan aims to have fully vaccinated 40% of its citizens.
Before Thursday, the plan had been to let a limited number of Japanese fans attend all of the Olympic events, but pressure has been mounting steadily on officials.
Vaccinations have accelerated recently nationwide, but so too has the number of daily COVID-19 cases, especially in Tokyo.
Tokyo and neighboring regions have been under a “quasi-lockdown,” with bars and eateries asked — but not ordered — to stop serving alcoholic beverages by 7 p.m. That semi-state of emergency was set to expire on July 11, but with the announcement on Thursday, restrictions are getting tighter, not easing.
With the Olympics opening ceremony looming nearer, Japan shifted its vaccination drive into overdrive this month, and local districts like the Sumida Ward in northeast Tokyo have been at the forefront of the push.
With more than 70% of its senior citizens at least partially vaccinated at the beginning of July — well ahead of the national average of 60% — Sumida Ward started offering shots to those as young as 40 about a week ago.
But nationally, demand for vaccinations has far outstripped supply, with some areas forced to scale back their inoculation efforts. The government is still aiming to get at least most of the country’s seniors fully vaccinated by the end of July, and officials say the rate of COVID-19 cases resulting in serious illness has already started to decline.
, fueled by previous scandals and misinformation, has also slowed uptake in Japan, leaving the nation far behind many other rich, developed nations.