TOKYO – Japan expanded the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and five other prefectures to nine territories on Friday as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government determined to hold the Olympics in just over two months.
Japan tried to slow down the infections before the games. The three newcomers include Japan’s northern island state of Hokkaido, which will host the Olympic marathon, and Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.
The three territories will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures already under coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, until Suga announced on May 31 at a government task force meeting on Friday. Bars, karaoke salons and most entertainment venues must be closed. Entrepreneurs who adhere to it will be compensated; those who fail to do so could face fines.
“Infections escalate extremely quickly in populated areas,” said Suga, explaining the decision.
His government is under strong public pressure, which is becoming increasingly frustrated by the slow adoption of vaccines and repeated emergency statements. Many now oppose hosting the Olympics from July 23rd to August 23rd. 8, and people seem to be less cooperative with home requests and social distancing, which aren’t mandatory anyway.
Less than 2% of the population have been fully vaccinated.
The extension of the state of emergency is a major change from the government’s original plan, which relied on less stringent measures that were deemed inadequate.
Hiroshima admission to emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organizers announced that International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach’s trip to the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay, originally scheduled for next week, has been canceled .
On Friday, organizers submitted a petition to the Tokyo government calling for the Olympic Games to be canceled. Yuriko Koike has collected more than 350,000 signatures since the beginning of May. The petition says that the money spent on the games should be better used for people in financial distress due to the pandemic.
On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new confirmed cases, adding to its total of 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.