TOKYO, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The countdown to the Tokyo Olympic Games marked one month on Wednesday, as the Games, which was postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is just around the corner despite intense pressure.
Japan has just lifted a state of emergency in many prefectures, and decided to allow up to 10,000 spectators in its venues. Can the Games be successfully held in the face of the pandemic? The eyes of the world are focused on Tokyo.
Major regions in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, lifted a state of emergency on Tuesday, switching to "priority measures including contagion prevention" that are less severe.
Tokyo, Osaka and other 10 regions will take "key measures to curb the spread" until July 11. However, Japan is still facing the pressure of a rebound of the pandemic.
Tokyo reported 435 new confirmed cases Tuesday, the third consecutive day with a higher number than the corresponding day the previous week. The average number of new confirmed cases in the seven days ending Tuesday was 406, eight percent higher than the average number of confirmed cases in the previous week, indicating that Tokyo's pandemic prevention and control remains at a stalemate.
A Kyodo News poll last week showed that more than 86 percent of those surveyed are concerned that the Olympics might lead to the spread of COVID-19. More than 40 percent think there should be no spectators, while 30.8 percent think the Games should be canceled.
However, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee have always insisted on the determination to host the Olympic Games, and the International Olympic Committee has repeatedly expressed its full support for Japan.
Japan has opted to limit the number of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics, despite experts advising the government that it would be best to hold the Games without spectators.
A maximum of 10,000 local spectators will be allowed into each event and no more than 50 percent of the stadium's capacity will be filled, officials said Monday. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also said that if a state of emergency is declared during the Tokyo Olympics again, the government will not hesitate to hold the Games with no spectators.
Japanese experts are also concerned that the crowds at the Olympics could lead to a resurgence of the pandemic. Shigeru Omi, head of the COVID-19 expert panel of the Japanese government, suggested that more stringent prevention measures should be taken if spectators are admitted.
Alcohol will not be served at Olympic venues, organizers said on Wednesday, in a bid to reduce crowds and the risk of infection. The newly-released guidelines also require people to travel directly between the venues and their homes, and avoid shouting. Those who do not abide by the rules may be refused admission or asked to leave the venue.
In order to ensure the smooth hosting of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Japan is stepping up its vaccination campaign, especially for Olympic-related personnel, while deploying Olympic-related pandemic prevention measures.
About 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Japan as of Monday. In addition to vaccinations for athletes, the government and organizers plan to vaccinate all 70,000 volunteers for the Tokyo Games. Media personnel covering the Tokyo Olympics will also be included in the program.
The third edition of the manual for athletes and officials of the Tokyo Olympic Games, released on June 15, detailed the testing of overseas athletes and officials before travel, after arrival in Japan, during the Olympics and when they leave the country. It further clarified the specific penalties for those who violated the regulations, including disqualification, fines and other related measures.
The Tokyo organizing committee has also announced tougher measures for Olympics-related travelers from 11 countries, including India, who will be quarantined for an extra three days after entering the country.
One person in the nine-member Ugandan Olympic team tested positive for the COVID-19 when they arrived in Tokyo on June 19 after receiving two doses of the vaccine. It was the first time a member of an overseas delegation has tested positive upon entering the country.
The Japanese government and local authorities were divided over whether the other eight are close contacts. They were not immediately ordered to be quarantined, but instead went to a training facility in Osaka that day. On June 22, the local authorities determined that the eight people were close contacts and ordered them to be quarantined in a local hotel until July 3.