Japan set to expand state of emergency, public cools to Olympics

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Japanese government plans to expand a state of emergency it declared for the Tokyo area last week to seven additional prefectures on Wednesday in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The move comes after the governors of Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi and other hard-hit prefectures requested the government issue the emergency state, which gives local authorities the legal basis to place restrictions on residents’ movements and businesses.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been wary about taking measures that would hamper economic activity, while he has put on a brave face against the mounting challenges of hosting the delayed Olympics in Tokyo this year.

As coronavirus infections hover at record-high levels in a third wave in Japan, opinion polls have shown a public increasingly opposed to holding the summer games this year.

In an NHK survey published on Wednesday, just 16% of respondents said the Games should go ahead this year – down 11 points from the previous poll last month – while a combined 77% thought they should be cancelled or postponed.

The government is due to hold a meeting with an advisory panel on Wednesday to decide on the expanded state of emergency.

The expected addition of Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka,Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures to a state of emergency would cover about 55% of Japan’s population.

The latest emergency declaration, however, is much narrower in scope than the first one last spring. It focuses on combating transmission in bars and restaurants, while urging people to stay home as much as possible.

The emergency state is set to last through February 7.

Japan has seen some 298 000 coronavirus cases and 4 192 deaths so far, according to NHK.