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Surge in COVID-19 cases puts Tokyo Games in doubt

As Japan expands state of emergency, calls develop to cancel Games. Japan has repeatedly insisted it’ll maintain the Games regardless of opinion polls displaying a majority of respondents need them postponed once more or cancelled.

 

IMAGE: As infections hover at report ranges, straining the nation’s medical system, opinion polls have proven a public more and more against holding the Summer Games and rising frustration with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan expanded a state of emergency declared for the Tokyo space final week to seven extra prefectures on Wednesday amid a gradual rise in COVID-19 cases, whereas a survey by public broadcaster NHK confirmed most individuals need to cancel or delay the Summer Olympics.

The transfer comes after the governors of Osaka, Kyoto and different hard-hit prefectures requested the federal government announce the emergency, which provides native authorities the authorized foundation to put restrictions on residents’ actions and companies.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been cautious about taking measures that might hamper financial exercise, whereas he has placed on a courageous face in opposition to the mounting challenges of internet hosting the delayed Olympics in Tokyo this 12 months.

 

Earlier in the day it was reported that Japan’s authorities is constant with preparations to carry the Tokyo Olympics this summer time as deliberate, following a postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, chief cupboard secretary Katsunobu Kato mentioned on Wednesday.

Japan has repeatedly insisted it’ll maintain the Games regardless of opinion polls displaying a majority of respondents need them postponed once more or cancelled.

“Right now we’re working as one with everybody involved in organising the Games to host them successfully,” Kato advised an everyday information convention.

The feedback come as native media reported Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US philanthropist Bill Gates had spoken concerning the Olympic Games on Tuesday in a name organized by Suntory Holdings Ltd CEO Takeshi Niinami.

Suga advised Gates the Games have been “very important” and would “definitely” go forward, Kyodo information company quoted Niinami as saying.

But Kato mentioned Suga didn’t make that remark to Gates.

“I’ve checked and as far as I know, that expression was not used,” Kato mentioned.

Japan’s coronavirus cases topped 300,000 on Wednesday, whereas the loss of life toll reached 4,187, public broadcaster NHK mentioned.

As infections hover at report ranges, straining the nation’s medical system, opinion polls have proven a public more and more against holding the Summer Games and rising frustration with Suga.

In a weekend survey by NHK, simply 16% of respondents mentioned the Games ought to go forward — down 11 share factors from the earlier ballot final month — whereas a mixed 77% thought they need to be cancelled or postponed. The Games are set for July 23 to August 8.

Even Takeshi Niinami, CEO of beverage big Suntory Holdings and an financial adviser to Suga, advised Reuters he was not sure whether or not the Olympics may very well be held as deliberate, and {that a} resolution will doubtless be made by end-March.

Suga introduced the expanded state of emergency to incorporate Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures from Thursday at a activity drive assembly. He will maintain a information convention 7 p.m. (1000 GMT).

The newest emergency declaration overlaying 55% of Japan’s inhabitants of 126 million is ready to final by way of February 7 and is way narrower in scope than the primary one final spring. It focuses on combating transmission in bars and eating places, whereas urging individuals to remain dwelling as a lot as attainable.

The authorities may also droop an entry-ban exemption for enterprise travellers from 11 beforehand designated international locations and areas in the course of the state of emergency.

Suga has been criticised for what many observers have mentioned was a sluggish and complicated response to the pandemic. That is a pointy reversal from the sturdy help he loved in the beginning of his tenure, when he was seen as a “man of the people” who may push by way of reforms.

Among probably the most controversial strikes has been a scheme that subsidised native tourism, encouraging hundreds of thousands to journey domestically. That was placed on maintain late final 12 months.

Political analyst Atsuo Ito mentioned he noticed two main issues with Suga’s response to the pandemic: that it was incremental and sluggish, and that he was a poor communicator regardless of having been the highest authorities spokesman in his earlier position as chief cupboard secretary.

“He has almost no skill at messaging. Even at press conferences he’s looking down and reading notes. That doesn’t invite trust from citizens … The result is that his support ratings are falling,” Ito mentioned.

Suga’s approval price fell under those that disapproved for the primary time in an NHK ballot since he took workplace in September — by 40% to 41%.

The ballot additionally confirmed 88% assume February 7 is simply too early to carry the state of emergency — a view shared by many consultants.

“It’s very unlikely we’ll see cases go down after just a month,” mentioned Yoshihito Niki, an infectious illness specialist and professor at Showa University Hospital.

“Japan has been called a success story and there’s been discussion about the so-called Factor X –something that makes the Japanese more resistant to the virus — but that’s a complete fantasy,” Niki mentioned.

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