Japan may suspend state of emergency until Olympics start

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Tokyo, 11 June - The Japanese government is contemplating a state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures as planned on 20 June but end a quasi-emergency state until the Olympics begin in July, the Mainichi daily reported.

New coronavirus infections in Olympics city Tokyo have decreased during the last month of emergency restrictions, although authorities remain concerned about the spread of variants and the continued strain on medical resources.

The Mainichi newspaper reported on Friday that the government would ask restaurants to extend their shorter hours and target other curbs under the targeted quasi-emergency measures. The bars and restaurants will be closed by 8 p.m. and banned from serving alcohol in them.

A final decision is expected to come late next week, just a few days before the end of the current emergency state, which also covers the northern island of Hokkaido, host of the marathon event.

Polls have shown a majority of Japanese public opposes holding the Olympics this year, worried by the flood of athletes and officials from overseas. Japan closed to foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out last year. The Japanese government and the Olympic organisers have said that the Games would go ahead if it was by breaking Armageddon away, as one member of the International Olympic Committee put it. The Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23.

A team of experts led by government advisor Hiroshi Nishiura said this week Japan could be forced to declare another state of emergency in August if the new measures were lifted on June 20 as summer holidays and the Games could spark a rise in infections and spread of new variants.

Japan has received over 760,000 COVID 19 cases and more than 13,800 deaths, while only 12% of its population has received at least one vaccination shot.

Japan plans to end vaccination of all those who want shots by October-November, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in parliament this week. From Chang-Ran Kim. Additional writing by Gerry Doyle, editor's articles by Linda Sieg and Lincoln Feast.

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