Japan faces longer state of emergency, casting doubt on Olympics


Athletes compete at the half-marathon race which doubles as a test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in Sapporo, Japan May 5, 2021. - Reuters

* Summer Olympics less than three months away * State of Emergency has not lowered coronavirus infections

TOKYO, May 5 (Reuters): The Japanese government is considering extending a coronavirus spurred state of emergency in Tokyo and other major urban areas, a move that could cast doubt on the planned Summer Olympics.

Officials were leaning toward an extension of the measures in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures beyond May 11 as the country battles a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Yomiuri Newspaper said on Wednesday.

Extending the measures, which were imposed on April 25, would likely fan persistent concerns about whether the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin on July 23, can be held as planned.

The games have already been delayed once from 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, the Yomiuri reported without citing sources.

The Yomiuri did not detail how long an extension might be, but the governor of Osaka Prefecture said an extension of three weeks to a month may be necessary, according to domestic media.

Calls by Reuters to Suga's office were not answered. Japan's government buildings and financial markets were closed on Wednesday for annual Golden Week holidays.

Under the state of emergency in Tokyo and other urban areas, the government required restaurants, bars, and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close. Large department stores and cinemas were also shuttered, while spectators were banned from big sporting events.

It was uncertain whether the government will loosen any of the operating restrictions on the services sector, the Yomiuri said. - Reuters
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