According to Japan’s top coronavirus adviser, holding the Tokyo Olympics without spectators is “desirable” because it would be the safest option during the pandemic.
After submitting a report containing a set of proposals to the Olympic organizing committee, Shigeru Omi, an infectious disease expert who leads the government subcommittee on coronavirus, and other experts urged the cap on spectator numbers at the Games to be stricter than the upper limit currently in place for large-scale events in Japan.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on June 20 that the Covid-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures would be lifted.
Except for Okayama and Hiroshima, where conditions have improved enough to avoid the designation, Tokyo and six other prefectures will be placed in a quasi-state of emergency until July 11.
The current state of emergency in Okinawa will last until July 11 because the prefecture’s hospitals are still overburdened with Covid-19 patients.
At a Tokyo 2020 roundtable on Friday, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said: “Yesterday, the Prime Minister made an announcement including the lifting of the state of emergency and the government’s basic policy on holding events from now on. As we have been saying, the Tokyo Games will be managed under these government policies.”
She added: “Earlier today, chairman Omi gave us his opinion about the risk of novel coronavirus infection in the Games. Based on Chairman Omi’s proposal, I’d like you to actively discuss how to realize ‘security and safety’ from the expert’s point of view.”
Later on Friday, Hashimoto told reporters that organizers would try to accommodate spectators, but that they might have to cancel at the last minute.
On Friday, experts and officials said that, as much as possible, spectators at the Games should go straight to venues and then straight home after watching events.
In the midst of the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 Games Delivery Officer Hidemasa Nakamura warned against drinking or having a party on the street, saying that “drinking, or having a party on the street, it’s not just a public nuisance, but it’s also a very negative event from an infection perspective.”
Within venues, Nakamura urged spectators to “please keep a safe distance away from everyone except for your family members, and no group drinking and eating in the venue.”
“So if you are eating, you need to eat alone or at least face the same direction as your friends and families”, Nakamura added.
On May 9, 2021, empty seats can be seen at Tokyo’s National Stadium during an athletics test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Officials are also looking into limiting cross-prefecture travel to prevent the spread of Covid-19, he said.
While the current rate of infection in Japan is declining, Tokyo 2020 officials have expressed concern about the Covid-19 Delta variant’s potential impact.
The Delta variant “may be a significantly big factor, potentially, in the near future,” according to Nakamura, who also stated that athletes arriving from India, where the variant was first identified, will be required to quarantine and undergo testing every day for seven days prior to their arrival in Japan.