Japan to decide soon on domestic spectators at Olympics

Osaka governor against removing state of emergency 'too easily'

  
The emblems of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are displayed during an unveiling event of the items that will be used for the victory ceremonies, at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan June 3, 2021.

The emblems of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are displayed during an unveiling event of the items that will be used for the victory ceremonies, at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan June 3, 2021.

REUTERS/Issei Kato/Pool

TOKYO - Japan will decide this month on whether to allow domestic spectators at the Tokyo Olympics, the government's chief spokesman said on Wednesday, following media reports a proposal to allow up to 10,000 people at events was under consideration.

The final call will be made taking into account coronavirus infection conditions and the prevalence of virus variants, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters when asked about the reports.

Japan plans to move forward on a proposal that will allow up to 10,000 spectators or 50% of a venue's capacity, whichever is smaller, at events during the Games, Kyodo News said late Tuesday, citing government sources.

Television network TV Asahi reported Prime Minister's Yoshihide Suga's administration is reviewing options such as putting a cap for the number of domestic spectators at 5,000 or 10,000.

Foreign spectators are already prohibited from the Olympics beginning on July 23 as part of measures planned to deliver what Japanese government and Olympic officials promise will be a "safe and secure" Games.

The government's top medical adviser Shigeru Omi will hold a news conference on coronavirus countermeasures at 0850 GMT on Wednesday, the Cabinet Office said. 

Omi has been outspoken in recent weeks about the risks of holding the Games during a pandemic and has said guidance from him and other experts was not making its way to the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC has tried to quell such concerns by saying that most athletes and media coming to Tokyo will be vaccinated, and that so-called playbooks governing hygiene, movements and testing of participants will further mitigate infection risks. 

The Olympics have already been postponed by a year amid concerns over how organisers can keep volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public safe when they begin on July 23 after a fourth wave of infections.

Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures remain under a state of emergency that is set to end on June 20.

Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Wednesday he is against lifting the emergency declaration "too easily," adding he would request quasi-emergency measures to avoid an infection rebound. 

Japan's sluggish vaccination push is starting to gain steam of late, and recent polls have pointed to acceptance that the Games will go forward.

Hofu City, in the southwestern prefecture of Yamaguchi, is vaccinating high school students, far ahead of the rest of the country, before they volunteer to help with pre-Games training there by Serbia's national volleyball team, NHK reported.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Rocky Swift and Ju-min Park; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast) ((ran.kim@thomsonreuters.com; +81-3-4520-1228))


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