Japan faces longer state of emergency, casting doubt on Olympics

Officials were leaning toward an extension of the measures in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures beyond May 11 as the country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Police officers finish their inspection before the start of the Hokkaido-Sapporo Marathon Festival 2021 on Wednesday.   -  REUTERS

Japan is considering extending a coronavirus spurred state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and other major urban areas, sources said on Wednesday, a move that could cast doubt on the planned Summer Olympics.

Officials were leaning toward an extension of the measures in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures beyond May 11 as the country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases, three sources told Reuters.

The government may make an official decision as early as Friday. The Yomiuri newspaper earlier reported that an extension of the state of emergency was likely.

Extending the measures, which were imposed on April 25, would likely fan persistent concerns about whether the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin on July 23, can be held as planned.

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The games have already been delayed once from last year due to the pandemic. The city of Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, hosted a half-marathon test event on Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet with senior government ministers on Wednesday to discuss an extension, the Yomiuri reported without citing sources.

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One proposal that has emerged is an extension until the end of the month.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is expected to visit Japan later this month, but an extension of the state of emergency could prompt renewed calls from the public to cancel the games.

Under the state of emergency in Tokyo and other urban areas, the government required restaurants, bars, and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close. Large department stores and cinemas were also shuttered, while spectators were banned from big sporting events.

It was uncertain whether the government will loosen any of the operating restrictions on the services sector.

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