(ATR) Stronger steps against the Covid-19 are needed in Tokyo says the Japanese government as cases surge. The warning comes as Tokyo gets ready to mark 100 days to the Games on April 14.
Tokyo reports more than 500 new cases of the coronavirus, the third day in a row. The surge is the biggest since February and follows the end of a state of emergency three weeks ago.
Beginning next Monday restaurants and bars in heavily populated parts of the city will have to close by 8pm. Crowds for large events are limited to 5,000. The new measures will stay in place until May 11.
"We will prevent local outbreaks from turning into a nationwide one by taking targeted steps quickly andin a focused manner," said Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide following a meeting of the government COVID-19 task force.
There is talk in Tokyo that the government may name Olympic athletes to the priority list to receive vaccinations for the coronavirus. The Japanese athletes would receive both doses of the vaccine before the end of June.
The rollout of vaccines has been slower than expected with health workers, people aged 65 and above and others with existing conditions such as diabetes.
Priority for athletes, who will number a few hundred, will possibly raise questions about special treatment for the Olympians and Paralympians. Unsettled is the question of inoculations for coaches and other delegation officials.
Planned Torch Relay Segments Could Change
The Olympic Torch Relay is travelling through western Japan this weekend in the prefectures of Nara and Osaka.
Earlier this week,Tokyo 2020 organizers bowed to the wishes of Osaka prefecture authorities, who requested that the Osaka segments of the torch relay on April 13-14 be held in the city's Expo ’70 Commemorative Park rather than on public roads.
Osaka prefecture declared a medical state of emergency on Wednesday due to rising COVID-19 cases, asking residents to refrain from going out and to avoid any unnecessary travel.
Upcoming Torch Relay segments in the prefectures of Okinawa, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Saga and Fukuoka are expected to take place as planned on public roads. But Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko, in her weekly press conference on Friday, said that would be subject to change.
"As of now, in each of the local governments, the infection status is changing. Some local governments are saying they will be performed as planned and others are saying it is difficult to perform as planned.
"We have prefecture task forces in each of the prefectures and here in Tokyo and we are having dialogue to abide by the safe and secure standard of the Games.
"We want to be welcomed by each of the prefectures and create an environment in which torch bearers want to run," Hashimoto said.
Decision Reached on Diving Test Event
One of the two FINA test events in Tokyo that had been in limbo in recent days has been finalized.
It was announced late Friday that theFINA Diving World Cup will now take place from May 1-6, 2021. The competition was originally scheduled for April 18-23. It will still be in Tokyo.
Following discussions among FINA, Japan Swimming Federation, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, Japanese authorities including the Government of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the IOC, a decision on the status of the Artistic Swimming Olympic Qualification Tournament, originally planned to take place from May 1-4, 2021 in Tokyo, could not be reached.
The Marathon Swim Olympic Qualifier, scheduled for Fukuoka, Japan on May 29-30, has been moved to Setubal, Portugal on June 19-20. The Portuguese location has previously been the venue for this Olympic qualification event in 2012 and 2016.
Reported by Ed Hula with additional reporting from Brian Pinelli.