State of emergency declared in Tokyo as COVID cases rise ahead of Olympics

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For the fourth time since the start of the pandemic, Tokyo has declared a state of emergency as cases of Delta coronavirus variants increase just over two weeks before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Tokyo reported 920 new infections in one day, the highest number since May, and the city has increasingly implemented unsuccessful measures to try to keep the virus at bay as the Olympics approach. Now residents are nervous as around 11,000 Olympians, 4,000 Paralympians and tens of thousands of support staff start arriving from all over the world.

Due to the declaration of a state of emergency, most Olympic venues will ban spectators. The move is a reversal from last month, when Olympic officials announced that spectators would be allowed, but would be limited to 10,000 people or 50% of capacity per venue. Right now, venues outside of Tokyo City can still allow spectators, so mountain biking and road events should allow fans to some extent.

With only 15% of Japan’s population fully vaccinated, many fear the Olympics will become a big-ticket event. Just days ago, a Serbian rower became the third Olympian to date to test positive for COVID upon arrival in Tokyo. Two Olympic Village employees also tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

“It will be an unusual way to organize the event in a context of a state of emergency,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, according to the Guardian. “But I want to show from Tokyo that the human race can overcome great difficulties through hard work and wisdom.”

We will keep you posted on how COVID will affect the Games as more information becomes available.

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