Tokyo’s fourth state of emergency since the COVID-19 pandemic began got underway Monday, in a last-ditch effort to curb a rise in cases ahead of the previously postponed Olympic Games.
The Games run from July 23 to August 8.
Tokyo recorded 502 new cases Sunday. That makes the 23rd straight day of week-on-week gains.
The recent cases rises in Tokyo have been especially concerning considering the city’s vaccine rollout has struggled throughout much of the year. Only about 28 percent of the population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. For reference, that’s compared to about 55 percent of the United States. Last month, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he expects more than 80 percent of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated. The village officially opens Tuesday.
The state of emergency effectively killed any chance of having fans at the Games. Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago. On Saturday, the governor of Fukushima prefecture said spectators would also be banned from softball and baseball games there. That decision was also a reversal an earlier one.
Fresh off his win in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, the world’s No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic said he was “50-50” on whether or not he would compete in Tokyo. The state of emergency also limits how many people athletes can bring to the Games. Some of the sport’s other biggest names, including Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Serena Williams and Simona Halep have already said that they will skip the Games.
Experts worry the public has grown weary of restrictions, mostly voluntary, on activities.
The state of emergency includes asking restaurants to close early and stop serving alcohol in exchange for a government subsidy. The measures have hit the restaurant industry hard, with many people saying calling the restrictions unfair.
Those calls even louder after Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura suggested he would ask banks to put pressure on eateries that do not comply with the stricter measures last Thursday. However, the government’s top spokesman said that would not happen the next day.