Japan reportedly considering extending Covid state of emergency

A man wearing a face mask stands behind the Olympic symbols of the five intertwined rings photographed near the Tokyo National Stadium.

Images by James Matsumoto, SOPA | LightRocket | Getty Images

Japan plans to extend the state of emergency caused by coronavirus in the capital, Tokyo, and other major urban areas, sources said on Wednesday, a move that could cast doubt on the Summer Olympics planned.

Officials are leaning towards an extension of measures in the prefectures of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo beyond May 11 as the country battles an upsurge in Covid-19 cases, three sources told Reuters.

The government could make an official decision as early as Friday, one of the sources told Reuters. The Yomiuri newspaper had earlier reported that an extension of the state of emergency was likely.

The extension of the measures, which were imposed on April 25, would likely raise lingering concerns about whether the Tokyo Olympics, which are set to start on July 23, can go ahead as planned.

The games have already been delayed once compared to last year due to the pandemic. The city of Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, hosted a half-marathon test event on Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet with senior government ministers on Wednesday to discuss an extension, Yomiuri reported without citing sources. The Yomiuri did not detail the duration of an extension.

One proposal that has emerged is an extension until the end of the month, according to two of the sources. The three people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

The governor of Osaka prefecture has said that an extension from three weeks to one month may be necessary, according to national media.

Reuters calls to Suga’s office went unanswered. Japanese government buildings and financial markets were closed on Wednesday for the annual Golden Week holiday.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, is expected to visit Japan later this month, but an extension of the state of emergency could prompt the public to renew calls for the games to be canceled.

Under a state of emergency in Tokyo and other urban areas, the government demanded the closure of restaurants, bars and karaoke lounges serving alcohol. Department stores and cinemas were also closed, while spectators were banned from major sporting events.

It was not certain that the government will relax any of the operating restrictions on the service sector, the Yomiuri said.

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