Japan to extend emergency to control Covid ahead of Games
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The Japanese government has recommended extending the state of emergency that includes Tokyo and other major cities, in a last-ditch effort to curb Covid infections before the capital hosts the Olympics in less than two months.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government’s contact man for viral policy, said on Friday that the emergency that was due to end on May 31 would be extended until June 20, just over a month before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. The extension would concern Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures which account for about half of the country’s economy.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will announce the official decision, which was expected later today. He is expected to hold a press conference at 8 p.m.
Suga faces tremendous pressure to keep the virus under control, and audiences fear the global sports spectacle will turn into a mass-market event. Yet it has few tools left to slow the spread of the virus. His government runs one of the slowest immunization programs in the developed world, so far giving only 10.6 million vaccines, compared to 291 million in the United States
“If the current situation persists, it will be very difficult to organize the Olympic Games”, Haruo Ozaki, president of The Tokyo Medical Association said Thursday in an online briefing. “In that sense, it’s the last chance.”
Almost 60% of respondents in a Yomiuri newspaper This month’s poll said the games should be canceled and the event’s sponsor Asahi newspaper wrote in an op-ed Wednesday that Suga is expected to make the decision to cancel.
The decision on whether or not to host the Tokyo Olympics must be taken no later than the end of June, said Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic Committee. said in an interview with Jiji Press. The IOC has the final say, but in a statement this week it said it all decisions relating to the games “have always been and always will be taken in full agreement of all parties”. The games are scheduled to open on July 23.
The extension comes after the United States said on Monday that Americans should avoid traveling to Japan because of the virus. The action – which comes despite far lower infection rates in Japan than in the United States – was yet another blow to a country struggling to convince the international community that it is ready to host the Games Summer Olympics, after their delay in 2020.
The last state of emergency, put in place at the end of April, reduced the daily number of infections recorded in the capital from 1,027 on April 29 to 684 on Thursday. The restrictions have resulted in bars and restaurants closing at 8 p.m. and a ban on the sale of alcohol, while some department stores have been closed.
Analysts accounting for a longer emergency now see a greater chance that Japan will experience a second consecutive quarterly contraction. “Japan’s impending extension to its viral emergency likely leads to another recession” wrote Yuki Masujima of Bloomberg Economics.
Crushing the Tokyo Olympics could then inflict further economic damage. The cancellation would result in a direct economic loss of around 1.4 trillion yen ($ 12.7 billion), according to Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
Takahide Kiuchi of Nomura Research Institute Ltd. estimated the figure at 1.8 trillion yen, mostly based on the loss of consumption.
– With the help of Masumi Suga, Yoshiaki Nohara, Kana Nishizawa and Isabel Reynolds
(Updates throughout with economic impact details and commentary.)