Japan to expand virus emergency ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Japan is set to further expand a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures, to nine areas as the government is determined to hold the Olympics in just over two months. Japan has been struggling to slow the infections ahead of the Games. The three additions include Japan's northern island state of Hokkaido, Hiroshima, and Okayama in western Japan.
Most entertainment facilities asked to shut down
The Olympic marathon will be held in Japan's northern island state of Hokkaido. "The three areas on Sunday will join Tokyo, Osaka, and four other prefectures already under the coronavirus restrictions, until May 31," Economy Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. Bars, karaoke parlors, and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don't face fines.
PM to make a formal announcement today
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will make a formal announcement at a government task force meeting later on Friday. He's also scheduled to hold a news conference. The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government's initial plan that relied on the less stringent measures that were deemed to be insufficient.
IOC Chairman's trip to Hiroshima was earlier canceled
The addition of Hiroshima to areas covered by emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organizers announced that International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach's trip originally scheduled for next week to mark the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay, has been canceled.
Public visibly frustrated by slow vaccine roll-out
Suga's government is under heavy pressure from the public increasingly frustrated by the slow vaccine roll-out as well as the repeated emergency declarations. Many now oppose hosting the Olympics, and people appear to be less cooperative with stay-at-home and social-distancing requests that are not compulsory anyway. Notably, less than two percent of the public has been fully vaccinated.
Petition with over 3,51,000 signatures to cancel Games submitted
On Friday, organizers of a petition demanding the cancelation of the Olympics submitted to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike over 3,50,000 signatures collected since early May. The petition says money spent on Games should be used on people facing financial problems because of the pandemic.