Japan’s top medical adviser has officially recommended the Tokyo Olympics proceed without fans next month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Shigeru Omi, the top medical adviser to the Japanese government, made the recommendation in a report both to the government and Olympic officials along with a group of 26 other experts, per The Associated Press.
Organizers have already banned international fans from the Games, but are set to make an official decision about local fans as soon as Monday.
“We believe it would be most desirable not to have fans inside venues,” Omi said Friday, via The Associated Press. “Regardless of holding the Olympics or not, Japan has continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on the medical systems.”
Organizers, per the report, said there are about 3.6 million tickets still being held by Japanese residents for the Games — just less than half of what was initially planned for — and about 800,000 tickets were returned.
It’s unclear how many fans organizers would allow in if they oppose Omi’s recommendation, but it would almost certainly vary by venue and event.
“Dr. Omi has indicated that ideally the best way is to hold the Games without spectators — that was his recommendation,” local organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said, via The Associated Press. “But if we are to hold the Games with spectators, Dr. Omi also had his recommendations.
“But Dr. Omi has also mentioned that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are very special. Therefore Dr. Omi has mentioned that we need to be even more stringent than the other sports events. So we need to look at stricter rules. There is this risk of people who come to the Games, and after watching they stop by bars and restaurants before going home. So it is recommended that we urge people to go straight home after watching the Games.”
How is COVID-19 in Japan?
Japan has had more than 780,000 total cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began as of Friday, according to The New York Times, and more than 14,000 deaths attributed to it.
The country is struggling to vaccinate its residents, too, as only about 6% are fully vaccinated.
Due to the pandemic, public support for the Games has rapidly declined. According to The Associated Press, between 50-80% of Japanese citizens don’t want the Olympics to take place.
Japan has repeatedly extended a state of emergency in large portions of the country in recent months, too. Their latest extension of the order, which included both Tokyo and Osaka, is set to expire this weekend — roughly one month before the opening ceremony kicks off on July 23.
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