As the government prepares to extend the state of emergency until May 31, a petition has been launched in Japan. And she makes noise.
Faced with a still worrying health crisis, the Japanese government is preparing on Friday to extend until the end of May the state of emergency in four departments, including that of Tokyo supposed to host the Olympic Games this summer, and to add two departments to this device. Reinstated since April 25 in Tokyo and three other departments in the west of the country (Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo), the state of emergency will be extended until May 31, when it was initially supposed to end next Tuesday, Minister responsible for managing the health crisis, Yasutoshi Nishimura, told Parliament on Friday. Activated for the third time in the country in just over a year, the Japanese state of emergency provides for less severe restrictions than the strict lockdowns implemented elsewhere in the world. It consists in imposing the temporary closure of bars and restaurants serving alcohol, under penalty of a fine, and in asking certain other businesses, such as department stores, to lower the curtain. Sporting events are also being held behind closed doors, but according to local media the government should validate a partial return of the public to the stadiums on Friday.
Japan is currently registering some 5,300 new cases of Covid-19 daily, on a weekly average, for some 10,500 deaths since the start of 2020. The scale of the pandemic remains limited compared to other regions of the world, but the health crisis is exhausting the hospital system, especially as the vaccination campaign is progressing very slowly in the Archipelago.
The new outbreak of infections also poses a threat to the Tokyo Olympics (July 23-August 8), postponed for one year in 2020 because of the pandemic. The Japanese government, the organizers of Tokyo-2020 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are working hard to ensure that the Olympics will take place “in complete safety”. Spectators from overseas have already been excluded from the Olympics, and organizers have yet to resolve the issue of audiences residing in Japan, but the attendance of more than 10,000 athletes and delegations from some 200 countries continues to worry many Japanese. .
Fearing that the giant event will further worsen the health situation in the country, a clear majority of Japanese are opposed to their holding this summer, wanting either a further postponement or an outright cancellation, according to all polls for several months. More than 200,000 people have already signed an online petition entitled “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives”, launched Wednesday by a lawyer and former candidate for governor of Tokyo. Overwhelmed by the pandemic, a hospital in the capital also posted anti-Olympics messages on its windows, such as “Impossible Olympics!”.
World athletics boss Sebastian Coe, who attended a reduced rehearsal of the Olympic marathon in northern Japanese city of Sapporo on Wednesday, said on Friday he was aware of the “difficult times” facing Japan. “The safety of our athletes is also important to us, but also the safety of the local community,” he told reporters in Tokyo. The health situation is already complicating the running of the Games test events, as well as that of the Olympic torch relay, which started at the end of March in Japan. Some runners give up participating, and many stages are organized behind closed doors by the local authorities. The governor of the department of Fukuoka announced on Friday such an intention in his territory.