The Olympics are moving forward next month in Tokyo despite significant concerns and opposition amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Though organizers and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are committed to holding the Games, the Japanese Emperor doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
Emperor Naruhito, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency Yasuhiko Nishimura said Thursday, is concerned about how the Olympics and Paralympics can spread the coronavirus throughout the country.
“His majesty is extremely worried about the current situation of the COVID-19 infections,” Nishimura said, via The Associated Press. “While there are voices of unease among the public, I believe [the emperor] is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics … may lead to the expansion of the infections.”
Though he holds no political power and his position is largely symbolic, Naruhito is an extremely popular figure in the country. He will serve as the “honorary patron” of the Games.
The Olympics, which were delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will kick off on July 23.
How is COVID-19 in Japan?
Japan recently lifted its most recent state of emergency — which encompassed significant parts of the country, including Tokyo — and now has “less-stringent” safety measures in place.
While that’s a good sign considering the Games are just less than a month out, officials have noticed that infections are already surging again in the Tokyo area.
Japan has had nearly 790,000 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus throughout the pandemic, according to The New York Times, and more than 14,500 deaths attributed to it. Only about 8% of the country is fully vaccinated, too.
Organizers have already banned all international fans from the Olympics, but will allow a limited number of local fans to attend the Games in person. Events will be limited to either 10,000 local fans or 50% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is fewer. Fans will be required to wear masks the entire time, and “speaking in a loud voice or shouting” is prohibited.
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