Sports bodies and athletes reacted with disappointment to the news there will be no spectators at the Tokyo Olympics but downplayed the potential impact on performances and said it was important that the global sporting showpiece went ahead. Organisers announced the decision to ban fans from Tokyo venues on Thursday as a resurgent novel coronavirus forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital that will run throughout the Games. American 100 metres hurdles world record holder Kendra Harrison said not having fans present would make little difference in her bid to win a first Olympic medal. ‘In the midst of just being lined up with the best in the world, you are not really worried about who is in the stands,’ Harrison told Kentucky's Spectrum News 1. ‘You are just worried about going out and competing to the best of their abilities.’ Japan's Ayumi Uekusa, who will compete in karate at the Games, said it was a shame there will be no spectators to cheer on the athletes but that it was understandable under the circumstances. ‘If people are cheering from the safety of their homes, even if it's through a television screen, I think their encouragement will reach us,’ she told an online news conference. International Equestrian Federation (FEI) President Ingmar De Vos echoed the comments of other sports bodies when he said he respected and understood the organisers' decision. ‘It is unfortunate that there will not be any spectators in Tokyo, but it is of the utmost importance that the (Olympics) take place and that the world’s best athletes come together following years of preparation for this important moment,’ he told Reuters by e-mail. ‘While the atmosphere will be very different, the athletes will be 100% focused on what they need to do to be successful and achieve their goals.’ The New Zealand Olympic Committee said its athletes had been preparing for a scenario where there were no fans present. ‘Our athletes have generally prepared with no spectators in mind, it was a specific part of their process around these Olympic Games,’ said team psychologist Kylie Wilson. ‘Athletes have been developing practices to be self-reliant and to ignite their adrenaline from an internal source and will be putting these into play in Tokyo.’ Veteran Australian swimming coach Michael Bohl said the most successful Olympians were those who were able to adapt to changing conditions most quickly. ‘If the meet was starting tomorrow and it happened it might have been a bit concerning,’ Bohl told reporters on Friday. ‘But we have got two weeks for everything to resonate and I think it will be fine.’ One noticeable exception to the sentiment was Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios, who pulled out of the Games on Thursday because ‘the thought of playing in front of empty stands just doesn't sit right with me’. The Tokyo Games begin on July 23.
* Foreign spectators already excluded from delayed Games * Organisers to meet Thursday evening on domestic spectators: paper * Virus restrictions, public sentiment to affect decision Olympic organisers are set to ban all spectators from the Games, the Asahi daily said on Thursday, as Japan prepared to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo that will run through its hosting of the event to curb a new wave of coronavirus infections. Organisers were set to formally reach the decision on the spectators during five-way talks between key parties to be held on Thursday evening, the newspaper said, citing people involved in the Games. The move is the latest blow to the troubled Olympics, already delayed by a year because of the pandemic and plagued by a series of setbacks, including massive budget overruns. Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators at the Games would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the influx of thousands of athletes and officials will fuel a fresh wave of infections. Organisers have already banned overseas spectators and have for now set a cap on domestic viewers at 50% of capacity, up to 10,000 people. Anyone wanting to support athletes has been told to do so by clapping rather than cheering or singing. Public viewing sites have been cancelled and companies, wary of public opposition, have been hesitant about advertising related to the Games, adding to a subdued mood in the Japanese capital. The evening talks are to be chaired by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, who arrives in Tokyo on Thursday. Other participants include the Tokyo and national governments and Paralympic officials. TOKYO INFECTIONS RISE Japan has not experienced the kind of explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen in many other countries but has had more than 810,000 cases and 14,900 deaths. A slow vaccine rollout has meant only a quarter of Japan's population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot. The imposition of a new state of emergency in Tokyo comes after new daily infections in the capital rose to 920 on Wednesday, the highest level since mid-May. Japan's economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads the government's coronavirus response, said the new restrictions will begin on July 12 and run through Aug 22. The Games are scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8. Tokyo is currently under slightly less strict ‘quasi emergency’ curbs. Under the heightened restrictions, restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol, Nishimura said. Areas neighbouring Tokyo where some Olympic events are also slated to take place, such as Chiba and Kanagawa, are set to remain under ‘quasi emergency’ through August 22. SPECTATORS, SPONSORS Underscoring the last-minute nature of the preparations, organisers have presented various spectator scenarios to Olympic sponsors as late as Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the situation. Sponsors were told that in the case of a no-spectator scenario, all sports and opening and closing ceremonies will likely be carried out without fans, including tickets allocated to the sponsors. The lack of crowds may further strain the Games' budget https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-coronavirus-money-factb-idCAKCN2DY2MI, which has already blown out to an estimated $15.4 billion, with ticket revenues of around $815 million expected to take a big hit. The organising committee did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Until this week, officials have insisted they could organise the Games safely with some spectators, but a ruling party setback in a Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, which some allies of Suga attributed to public anger over the Olympics, had forced the change of tack, sources said. Japan will hold a parliamentary election later this year and the government's insistence that the Games - postponed last year as the virus spread around the world - should go ahead this year could cost it at the ballot box, they said.
* Foreign spectators already excluded from delayed Games * Organisers to meet Thursday to discuss spectators * Virus restrictions, public sentiment to affect decision Japan is considering banning all spectators from the Olympic Games, several sources told Reuters on Wednesday, as officials weigh extending novel coronavirus restrictions to contain infections just over two weeks before the Games begin. Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators at the Olympics would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern about the risk the Games will fuel new surges of infections. Organisers have already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50% of capacity, up to 10,000 people, to contain a lingering coronavirus outbreaks. Officials have been wrestling with the question for months but a ruling party setback in a Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, which some allies of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attributed to public anger over the Games, had forced their thinking, sources said. "Politically speaking, having no spectators is now unavoidable," a ruling party source told Reuters. Japan will hold a general election later this year and the government's insistence that the Games - postponed last year as the virus was spreading around the world - should go ahead this year could cost it at the ballot box. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee said restrictions on spectators would be based on the content of Japan's coronavirus state of emergency, or other relevant measures. Japan has not experienced the kind of explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen elsewhere but has seen more than 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths. The capital, Tokyo, reported 920 new daily cases on Wednesday, the highest since May 13. A slow rollout has meant only a quarter of its population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot. Preparations for the Games have been shrouded in concerns about the impact of Covid-19 as authorities have struggled to stamp out persistent clusters of infections, particularly in and around Tokyo. On Thursday, the government is likely to extend restrictions in Tokyo and three nearby prefectures beyond an original end-date of July 11, government sources have said. Kyodo News reported the extension would likely last a month, meaning the curbs will be in place throughout the Olympics, which begin on July 23 and close on Aug. 8. The issue of spectators is due to be decided at five-way talks on Thursday, which will include the Tokyo governor and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. Asked about the topic at a news conference on Tuesday, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Suga has said holding the Games without spectators was a possibility. Shigeru Omi, the government's top health adviser, told a parliamentary health committee on Wednesday it was important to reduce the number of Olympic officials and others attending events as much as possible. Early July to September was "one of the most important periods" in combating the coronavirus in Japan, he said. "We have been saying that it's preferable that the events be held without spectators," said Omi. "We are asking many people to take steps to prevent further spread of the infection. Images of spectators would be sending out a contradictory message to a lot of people ... In formulating our coronavirus response, people's feelings are a very important factor." In another blow to the Games, organisers announced on Tuesday they would ask the public not to gather on the streets to watch the marathon, one of the most popular events of the Games. Tokyo authorities have also decided to move most of the torch relay, set to reach the capital on Friday, off public roads. Torch-lighting ceremonies without spectators will be held instead.
Fans are likely to be banned from the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony over virus fears, but a reduced number of VIPs and Olympic officials will be able to attend, a Japanese newspaper reported. International Olympic Committee (IOC) representatives, foreign dignitaries, sponsors and others connected to the Games will be allowed into the National Stadium to watch the July 23 ceremony, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said late on Monday. But under plans currently being discussed, fans would be locked out as organisers rethink attendance limits, as concern grows over rising virus cases in Tokyo. The report, which cited several unnamed government sources, said organisers are working to whittle down the expected 10,000 "Olympic family" members to a level the Japanese public would find acceptable. "Some people in government are concerned that the public won't accept them being given special treatment," it said. "They'd like the number of people attending to be reduced to the hundreds." Games organisers last month set a limit of 10,000 domestic fans, or half of each venue's capacity. Overseas fans have already been barred. But a rise in infections has forced a rethink, with Games president Seiko Hashimoto recently warning that a closed-door Olympics remains an option. The government is this week expected to extend anti-virus measures in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a decision on Olympic fans to follow. Organisers were considering banning spectators from events in larger venues and in the evening, said the newspaper. The announcement of the results of a ticket lottery for oversubscribed events has been pushed back to Saturday -- less than two weeks before the opening ceremony. Japan's Covid-19 outbreak has not been as severe as in some countries, with around 14,800 deaths, but experts say another wave could stretch medical services as the Olympics begin. The Olympic torch is due to arrive in Tokyo on Friday, but there will be no relay on public roads in the capital this weekend, organisers said, with short fan-free ceremonies planned instead. Several legs of the torch relay, which began in March, have been taken away from public roads to prevent crowds from gathering.
Authorities in a landslide-hit Japanese holiday town were trying to locate 80 residents on Monday as rescue teams trawled through the muddy debris looking for survivors. Soldiers and emergency workers used hand-held poles and mechanical diggers in the desperate search, two days after a torrent of earth slammed down a mountainside and through part of the hot-spring resort of Atami in central Japan. Three people have been confirmed dead, although authorities are struggling to pinpoint the whereabouts of dozens of residents as they scour the wreckage of 130 homes and other buildings that were destroyed. Pylons were toppled, vehicles buried and buildings tipped from their foundations in the disaster, with aerial footage from the mountaintop showing a stark brown wedge gouged out of the green hillside. "The number of those who are unaccounted for has now come to 80, down from 113. We are working hard to specify the figures as quickly as possible," Hiroki Onuma, a town disaster management spokesman, told AFP. Authorities had initially said just 20 people were missing, but Atami mayor Sakae Saito said Sunday evening that was only an estimate based on an early assessment. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the focus was still on finding survivors, with hundreds of rescue workers "doing their best to rescue as many people as possible, as soon as possible". The Saturday morning landslide descended in several violent waves during Japan's annual rainy season, following days of intense downpours in and around Atami. Rescuers on Monday took advantage of a break in the rain to continue their search, wading through streams of murky water and moving blocks of timber and other debris out of the way. Non-compulsory evacuation orders have been issued to more than 35,700 people across Japan, mostly in the Shizuoka region including Atami, which is around 90 kilometres (55 miles) southwest of Tokyo. The weather agency forecast heavy rain in the wider region, warning that more landslides could take place. Atami reportedly recorded more rainfall in 48 hours than it usually does for the whole of July, and survivors told local media they had never experienced such strong rain in their lives. Scientists say climate change is intensifying Japan's rainy season because a warmer atmosphere holds more water. More than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan in 2018, and last year dozens more were killed as the coronavirus pandemic complicated relief efforts. Survivors at a nearby evacuation centre told AFP on Sunday of their panic when the landslide began. "When I opened the door, everyone was rushing into the street and a policeman came up to me and said: 'What are you doing here, you have to hurry, everyone is evacuating!'" local resident Kazuyo Yamada said. "So I went out in the rain in a hurry, without changing, with just a bag."
Rescuers in a Japanese holiday town hit by a deadly landslide searched for survivors Sunday, climbing across cracked roofs and checking cars thrown onto engulfed buildings as more rain lashed the area. Two people have been confirmed dead after the disaster at the hot-spring resort of Atami in central Japan, with 10 others rescued and around 20 still missing, a local government official said. Torrents of mud crashed through part of the town on Saturday morning following days of heavy rain, sweeping away hillside homes and turning residential areas into a quagmire that stretched down to the nearby coast. "It's possible that the number of damaged houses and buildings is as many as 130. I mourn the loss of life," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told ministers at an emergency meeting. "This rainy-season front is expected to keep causing heavy rain in many areas. There is a fear that land disasters could occur even when the rain stops," he warned. Around 1,000 rescuers including 140 military personnel were involved in the relief efforts, a Shizuoka prefecture official told AFP. "We are trying our best to search for survivors as quickly as possible while carrying out the operation very carefully as it is still raining," he added. Public broadcaster NHK later reported that rescue operations had been temporarily suspended due to the bad weather. "The big electricity pylons here were shaking all over the place, and no sooner had I wondered what was going on than the mudslides were already there and in the street below too," said Chieko Oki, who works on a shopping street in the town. "I was really scared," the 71-year-old told AFP. Another survivor told local media he had heard a "horrible sound" and fled to higher ground as emergency workers urged people to evacuate. On Sunday, dark water trickled past half-buried vehicles and buildings tipped from their foundations. An air-conditioning unit dangled from one devastated home, now perched above a thick slurry of mud and debris, as military personnel stuck poles into the ground to check for bodies. Atami, around 90 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, saw rainfall of 313 millimetres in just 48 hours to Saturday -- higher than the average monthly total for July of 242.5 millimetres, according to public broadcaster NHK. Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts several weeks and often causes floods and landslides. Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense rainfall. Further downpours are forecast in the coming days across Japan's main island. "Landslides can occur again and again at the same place even if the rain stops. Residents and rescuers should remain on alert," Takeo Moriwaki, professor of geotechnical engineering at Hiroshima Institute of Technology, told AFP. NHK said on Sunday that at least seven other landslides had been reported across Japan. The highest evacuation alert, which urges people "to secure safety urgently", was issued after the disaster in Atami, which has 20,000 households. At shelters in the town, survivors wearing masks were keeping their distance from other families due to fears of coronavirus infection, media reports said. Residents in many other cities in Shizuoka have also been ordered to evacuate.
At least two people were feared dead yesterday after landslides triggered by heavy rains hit the central Japanese city of Atami, where about 20 people were still missing, public broadcaster NHK said. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who convened an emergency task force to tackle the crisis, asked people in the affected areas to remain on alert. “There may be more heavy rainfalls and we need to be taking the highest caution,” he said in televised remarks. The floods are a reminder of the natural disasters – including earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami – that plague Japan, where the capital Tokyo is to host the summer Olympics this month. NHK aired footage of collapsed and half-submerged houses as water dashed the city with mud and debris. Social media images showed partially submerged cars and rescue workers wading through waist-high water with a small life raft. “I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground,” the head of a temple near the disaster told public broadcaster NHK. “When I returned, houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone.” Japan’s military sent emergency rescue teams to the city, where about 80 people have been evacuated, NHK said. Some 2,830 households in the area face power outages, it said, citing the Tokyo Electric Power. Atami saw rainfall of 313mm in just 48 hours – higher than the average monthly total for July of 242.5mm, according to NHK. “Because of the heavy rain, the ground loosened and the mudslide occurred ... it picked up speed and swept away houses together with people,” Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu told reporters. The disaster began around 10.30am at a river near the city, which is around 90km from Tokyo and is famous as a hot spring resort. A video posted on TikTok from the scene showed a huge slurry of mud and debris sliding slowly down a steep road and nearly engulfing a white car, which managed to drive away just before a faster and more violent torrent arrived. In other clips on social media, the landslide was seen toppling electricity poles, with large areas left inundated by several waves of earth. Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts several weeks and often causes floods and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders. Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense rainfall. More than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan in 2018. The highest evacuation alert, which urges people “to secure safety urgently”, has been issued to Atami city which has more than 20,000 households, according to NHK. Residents in many other cities in Shizuoka have also been ordered to evacuate. Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka were temporarily stopped due to the heavy rain, while other local trains in rain-affected areas were also halted, rail company websites said.
A huge landslide swept away homes and left 19 people missing at a popular resort town in central Japan on Saturday after days of heavy rain, local officials said. Television footage showed a torrent of mud obliterating some buildings and burying others in Atami, southwest of Tokyo, with people running away as it crashed over a hillside road. ‘I heard a horrible sound and saw a mudslide flowing downwards as rescue workers were urging people to evacuate. So I ran to higher ground,’ a leader of a temple near the disaster told public broadcaster NHK. ‘When I returned, houses and cars that were in front of the temple were gone.’ A Shizuoka prefecture disaster management official told AFP that ‘the safety of 19 people is unknown’ after the landslide. The local government has requested military assistance for a rescue mission, he added. The landslide occurred at around 10:30 am and ‘several houses were swept away’, an Atami city official said. More than 2,800 homes in the region were without power, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). A video posted on TikTok from the scene showed a huge slurry of mud and debris sliding slowly down a steep road and nearly engulfing a white car, which drove away before a faster and more devastating torrent arrived. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet ministers this afternoon to discuss the disaster and other rain-related damage, Japanese media reported. Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts several weeks and often causes floods and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders. Experts say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense rainfall. More than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan in 2018, and last year dozens more were killed as the coronavirus pandemic complicated relief efforts. Atami saw rainfall of 313 millimetres in just 48 hours to Saturday -- higher than the usual monthly average of 242.5 millimetres in July, according to NHK. The city is around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Tokyo and is famous as a hot spring resort. Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka were temporarily stopped due to the heavy rain, while other local trains in rain-affected areas were also halted, rail company websites said.
Japan's prime minister warned that the Tokyo Olympics could be held behind closed doors, as virus cases rise in the city just three weeks before the Games begin. Organisers decided last month to set a limit of 10,000 fans or half of each venue's capacity for events at the pandemic-postponed Games. But Yoshihide Suga repeated cautions that spectators could be locked out of competitions if the situation worsens, with the government expected to extend anti-virus measures covering Tokyo as new cases climb. ‘There is a possibility of there being no spectators’ at the Games, Suga said Thursday. ‘We will act with the safety and security of the Japanese people as our top priority.’ The Yomiuri Shimbun daily said Friday that spectators could be barred from events held in the evening or in large venues, citing unnamed sources. The Yomiuri and other media said organisers are also likely to delay a ticket lottery for oversubscribed events, which was set to take place next Tuesday. ‘Infections are rebounding in Tokyo and other places, and people are calling for prevention measures to be strengthened,’ the Yomiuri report said. Covid-19 cases have been rising in Japan since a state of emergency was lifted last month and replaced with softer restrictions that are set to expire on July 11. But the government is likely to extend them as early as next week, meaning they could still be in place when the Games open on July 23. Up to 5,000 spectators are allowed at sporting events under the current measures, which also require restaurants and bars to close early. Organisers were set to hold a lottery next Tuesday to allocate tickets for events that are oversubscribed under current attendance limits. They need to reclaim around 900,000 of the 3.6 million tickets that are already spoken for, with reductions required in eight sports and the opening and closing ceremonies. But uncertainty over attendance limits now means the lottery is likely to be postponed -- leaving some fans sweating on their places less than three weeks before the Games begin. No more tickets will be sold and spectators from overseas have already been barred from attending. Japan's virus outbreak has been less severe than in many countries, with around 14,800 deaths overall, but experts warn that another wave of cases could stretch medical services around the time of the Games. Around 11 percent of the population is fully vaccinated so far.
* Japan considers extending measures by upto a month, media say * Retention risks further limits on domestic spectators * Recent increase in infections has officials concerned * Tokyo governor to work from home while recovering from fatigue * Capital portion of torch relay to be moved off public roads Japan is considering an extension of two weeks to a month for coronavirus prevention measures in Tokyo and other areas, Japanese media said on Wednesday, with less than a month to go until the Tokyo Summer Olympics open. Japan's capital and other areas are under a 'quasi' state of emergency set to be lifted on July 12, but a recent uptick in infections has officials concerned and could affect the number of spectators allowed into Olympics venues. The Mainichi Shimbun daily said the government was considering an extension of two to four weeks, which would overlap with the Olympics, due to open on July 23 after a year's delay over the pandemic. A government meeting later in the day will discuss how to tackle signs of an impending surge that have worried experts and ignited concern about the spread of more infectious variants. ‘Any decisions regarding quasi-emergency measures will be taken based on policies we have in place,’ Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference. The 'quasi' state of emergency caps spectators at 5,000. Olympics organisers have said spectators will be allowed up to half of venue capacity or a maximum of 10,000, though foreign spectators have been banned. Media said Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike would work from home for an indefinite period after her release early on Wednesday from hospital, where she had been recovering from fatigue. Tokyo has decided to move off public roads the first half of the 15-day Olympic torch relay scheduled for the capital. Officials have pledged a ‘safe and secure’ Games but face persistent resistance from a substantial part of the public, its worries fanned over two Ugandan delegates who tested positive after arrival in Japan. Public broadcaster NHK said the government was drawing up measures for all foreign athletes in regional training camps ahead of the Olympics to halt training and quarantine in their rooms if one of their group tests positive. This measure will continue until all have had a negative virus test, NHK added, without identifying its sources. Asked about stronger screening guidelines, Tokyo 2020 organisers said in an email those testing positive at the airport would be quarantined and authorities in host areas would decide how to categorise ‘close contacts’. ‘We are paying close attention to last week's case involving the Uganda team,’ they added, saying that all relevant information gathered about it would be weighed in running the Games.
Moscow on Sunday recorded its worst daily coronavirus death toll and South Africa reimposed restrictions for two weeks to combat a surge in the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant. Indonesia saw more than 21,000 infections in a day, a record, as countries across the Asia-Pacific region extended or reimposed restrictions to tackle fresh waves of cases. Even as vaccination drives have brought down infection numbers in many wealthy countries, the Delta strain of the virus remains a concern. The variant is now in 85 countries and is the most contagious of any Covid-19 strain so far identified, according to the World Health Organization. While in much of Europe and the United States curbs on daily life are easing as vaccination programmes bear fruit, Russia is grappling with a deadly third wave. Moscow on Sunday recorded 114 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, a day after Saint Petersburg set Russia's previous highest figure. Saint Petersburg has hosted six Euro 2020 matches and is due to host a quarter-final on Friday, with spectator numbers capped at half but still upwards of 26,000 people. Russia has seen an explosion of new infections since mid-June driven by the Delta variant. Officials in Moscow are pushing vaccine-sceptic Russians to get inoculated. Rapid, large-scale vaccination was the only answer, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told state-run television on Saturday. "Nobody has invented any other solution." - S.African 3rd wave – South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa announced fresh restrictions in a televised address Sunday. The country, he said, "is facing a massive resurgence of infection". The government has banned the sale of alcohol, and all gatherings except for funerals, capped at 50 people. The overnight curfew has been extended by an hour, and restaurants and other outlets can now only serve take away food. "The peak of this third wave looks set to be higher than the previous two," the president warned. South Africa, the worst-hit nation on the continent, has already suffered nearly 60,000 deaths. The Delta variant is also feeding fresh outbreaks in Southeast Asia and Australia where authorities have brought back or extended restrictions. More than five million Sydney residents endured their first full day of a two-week lockdown Sunday. Restaurants, bars and cafes were shuttered and stay-at-home orders were issued, leaving the city centre virtually deserted. More than 110 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Sydney since a driver for an international flight crew tested positive in mid-June for the Delta variant. The flare-up has been a shock for a place that had returned to relative normality after months with few local cases. Australia's northern city of Darwin also entered a separate snap 48-hour lockdown on Sunday after a handful of cases linked to a coronavirus outbreak on a remote gold mine. - Restrictions reimposed – Similar spikes in infections have been seen across Southeast Asia, with Indonesia setting a new daily infection record of more than 21,000. Hospitals are flooded with patients in the capital Jakarta and other Covid-19 hotspots across the region's hardest-hit nation. Thailand will from Monday reimpose restrictions on restaurants, construction sites and gatherings in the capital Bangkok. Its latest wave began in April when a cluster was found in upscale Bangkok clubs. Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha has said he plans to fully reopen the country by October, but this would require hitting a target of vaccinating 50 million Thais in four months. In neighbouring Malaysia, the prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown already in place for about a month will continue. He gave no date for the lifting of restrictions. Bangladesh also said it would impose a new national lockdown from Monday, with offices shut for a week and only medical-related transport allowed. The announcement prompted tens of thousands of migrant workers to desert the capital Dhaka, where the lockdown will cut off their revenue sources. "During lockdown, there is no work," Fatema Begum, 60, told AFP while waiting for a ferry. "And if we don't work, how do we pay rent? So we packed up everything and are going back to our village." Infections declined in May but started to rise again this month, with a pandemic high of 119 deaths on Sunday, according to the health ministry. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel's office announced he is self-isolating for 10 days after testing positive for Covid shortly after a European Union summit. None of the other 26 EU leaders who attended is considered a contact case, a statement said. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Sunday began trials to test a modified vaccine against the Beta variant, which first emerged in South Africa.
With two members of the Ugandan delegation testing positive after arriving in Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that start on July 23, organisers are seeking to soothe public concerns that delegations may bring in and spread Covid-19. At a news conference on Monday, Yasuhiro Yamashita, the president of Japan's Olympic Committee, said it was impossible to completely shut out coronavirus cases upon arrival, making it crucial for authorities to spot them at the border. ‘There is just no way there won't be cases arriving in Japan, no matter what we do...that's why it is crucial we make sure to catch cases at the airports and enforce strict border controls,’ Yamashita said. He added that the Tokyo 2020 panel and the government would play a greater role in the quarantine process when new cases are identified among arriving delegations, rather than leaving them to local authorities to handle. On Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also sought to assuage public concerns in comments to reporters after a tour of Tokyo's Haneda airport. ‘We are imposing strict rules so that the Olympic delegations don't come in contact with the general public,’ he said, adding that he had asked for the airport to step up vigilance as more delegations arrive. A coach from the Ugandan delegation that arrived in mid-June tested positive for the Delta variant upon arrival at the airport. However, the rest of the delegation then travelled to the city of Izumisano for a planned pre-Olympic training camp, but without being identified as ‘close contacts’ of the coach. Another delegation member also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. The incident sparked concern among local governments planning to host Olympic delegations, with one governor saying they should be held at or near the airport if a member tested positive upon arrival. The government aims to update virus precautions for hosting Olympic delegations amid confusion over how to identify close contacts of those testing positive, Kyodo news agency said on Monday. The most recent guidelines date from last November. Many Japanese remain sceptical about the possibility of safely holding even a scaled-down Games during the pandemic, which caused the event to be postponed last year. In a poll of Tokyo residents published on Sunday by the Asahi Shimbun daily, 38% of respondents said it was best to host the Games as planned this year, while 27% wanted a further delay and 33% sought outright cancellation. Organisers have excluded foreign spectators from the event and limited domestic numbers. Alcohol, high-fives and loud talking will also be banned. While Japan has largely avoided the kind of explosive outbreak that devastated other countries, its vaccine roll-out was initially slow, and the medical system pushed to the brink in some places.
Many schools near Tokyo are shunning Olympic and Paralympic events, cancelling more than half the 280,000 tickets reserved for them amid worries that the Games could further spread Covid-19, a Japanese daily said on Sunday. About 60% of the discount tickets intended for municipalities to purchase for their school children have been cancelled in the neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa, the Mainichi Shimbun said. The Tokyo metropolitan board of education plans to ask each municipality within the capital if it still intends to send school children to the Games, the paper said, without citing sources. As of August 2019, before the pandemic, the host city expected about 900,000 of its students to watch the Games under the programme, it added. No officials from Tokyo 2020 organisers or at four local governments were immediately available for comment. The Japanese government lifted a coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and eight other prefectures this month, but there were signs in recent weeks that infections may be on the rise again. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has urged the public to watch the Games on television. Overseas spectators are barred from the international extravaganza, and organisers have capped venue capacity at 50% with a maximum of 10,000 people. School children and their supervisors, however, are not subject to this rule. The Tokyo Olympics are set to start on July 23 after a year's delay due to the pandemic.
* Minister says Delta variant must be kept in mind * Experts fear new surge, spread of variants * No fresh emergency to be declare now: minister A member of the Ugandan Olympic team who tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Japan had the Delta variant, Japan's Olympic minister said on Friday, adding to concern the Games - less than a month away - may trigger a new wave of infections. A coach in the African nation's delegation tested positive after arriving in Japan on Saturday, while a second member, an athlete, tested positive on Wednesday after arriving in the team's host city of Izumisano, officials said previously. Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told a news conference that the person who arrived on Saturday had been found to have the Delta variant, NHK public TV reported, adding that an analysis was also being conducted on the second confirmed case. Marukawa said she would consult other ministries and liaise with those on the ground about what steps were needed, NHK said. Japan has not suffered the explosive outbreak of the virus seen elsewhere but has struggled with a fourth wave of infections. A decline in the pace of new cases and a speeded up vaccination rollout prompted it to ease a state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures on Sunday. But experts have been expressing concerns about a renewed rise in cases in Tokyo as well as about the spread of more highly transmissible variants. Tokyo recorded 570 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, up from 452 the same day a week earlier. Japan's government and organisers have vowed to make the Games, which begin on July 23, ‘safe and secure’. But many Japanese remain sceptical about the possibility of holding even a scaled-down Games safely during the pandemic. Organisers have excluded foreign spectators and limited the number of domestic ones for the event. Alcohol, high-fives and talking loudly will also be banned at stadiums. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, the government's pointman on the pandemic response, said authorities needed to keep the Delta variant in mind, given the experience in the United States and Britain, where it spread rapidly. He said it currently accounted for 3% of new cases in Japan. ‘Considering that the Delta variant will spread ... it is important to continue strong measures,’ he told reporters. Nishimura said stronger steps would be taken if infections spread to a ‘certain degree’ or hospitals were strained but a fresh state of emergency would not be immediately imposed. Some areas including Tokyo remain under ‘quasi-emergency’ restrictions, including limits on the sale of alcohol at eateries. A ban might need to be reimposed, Nishimura said.
* 30 days to go before the opening of Tokyo Olympics * Organisers vow to put on ‘safe and secure’ Games * Decision on night spectators to come by mid-July Alcohol, high-fives and talking loudly will be banned for the reduced numbers of Olympic ticket holders allowed into venues as organisers conceded a ‘sense of celebration’ would be limited at a Games already postponed by a year due the coronavirus. Organisers have pushed ahead with preparations for the Olympics, still called Tokyo 2020, despite strong concerns among the Japanese public that hosting athletes from around the world could result in further Covid-19 outbreaks. Media reports that organisers were considering allowing alcohol consumption in Olympics venues provoked an outcry this week, with the hashtag ‘cancel the Olympic Games’ garnering tens of thousands of tweets. ‘As the Organising Committee wants to hold the Games in a safe and secure manner, it's our responsibility to make it happen,’ Tokyo Olympics President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters on Wednesday, a month before the opening ceremony on July 23. ‘So if our citizens have concerns (over serving alcohol at the Olympics), I think we have to give up on that. That's why we have decided to ban the sale of alcohol.’ Alcohol sales have been restricted in and around Tokyo after health officials warned drinking would encourage close contact and mingling in bars that could help spread the virus. Sponsor Asahi Breweries said it agreed with the decision to ban alcohol sales, calling the move natural. Ticket holders, to be selected in a new lottery after domestic spectators were capped at up to 10,000 at each venue, will also be asked to refrain from talking en route, to go straight to venues and then straight home, and cannot ask athletes for autographs. ‘The major challenge at the Tokyo Games is to curb a flow of people and limit a sense of celebration,’ Hashimoto said. ‘We are striving to make the Tokyo Games safe and secure, so it won't be full of celebration.’ CONTAGION FEARS Japanese medical experts have said banning spectators was the least risky option but also included recommendations on how best to host the Games if spectators were admitted. Spectators from overseas have already been banned. Hashimoto has defended the decision to allow spectators. ‘I understand that holding the event without spectators would lower the risk, but there is evidence that there have been no clusters at other events and tournaments,’ Hashimoto reporters on Tuesday. Limited numbers of fans have been present at stadiums across Europe for matches in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament and thousands of spectators have attended baseball games in Japan. Organisers said on Wednesday they would decide on whether to allow spectators at night sessions, taking infections into account, by July 12 when virus curbs are due to be lifted in Tokyo and some other areas. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has still not ruled out holding the Games without spectators if Tokyo is put back under a state of emergency, from which it only emerged on June 21. Many Japanese remain sceptical about the possibility of holding even a scaled-down Games safely during a pandemic, with 619 infections reported for Wednesday in Tokyo, up 118 cases versus a week ago. ‘I believe that it will not be possible to prevent contagion within the Athletes' Village,’ Masahiro Kami, the head of think-tank Medical Governance Research Institute, told reporters. ‘Because of the delay in the vaccination rollout in Japan, it means that those people going in and out of the Athletes' Village ... will not be vaccinated in time.’ In another blow to organisers' pledge that the Games will be safe, a second member of Uganda's Olympic delegation, an athlete, has tested positive for Covid-19 in Japan, an official from the team's host city of Izumisano said on Wednesday. The arduous preparations for the Olympics also appeared to have taken its toll on organisers. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike was hospitalised on Tuesday after the metropolitan government said she would take the rest of the week off due to fatigue.
Up to 10,000 fans will be allowed at Tokyo Olympic events, organisers said Monday, warning competition could move behind closed doors if infections surge. The decision, just weeks before the opening ceremony, ends months of speculation about whether spectators will be allowed at the pandemic-postponed Games. Overseas fans were banned in March. "In light of the government's restrictions on public events, the spectator limit for the Olympic Games will be set at 50 percent of venue capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people in all venues," organisers said in a statement. A decision on spectators at the Paralympics will be delayed until July 16, a week before the Olympics open. And officials left open the possibility of a reversal if the virus rebounds. "If there should be major dramatic change in the infection situation, we may need to revisit this matter amongst ourselves and we may need to consider the option of having no spectators in the venues," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said. Senior medical experts, including top advisors to the government, have said that holding the Games behind closed doors would be "ideal" from a health perspective. They fear crowds of fans could fuel a new surge in infections in a country still racing to vaccinate its residents. The decision was announced after five-way talks between Tokyo 2020 organisers and officials from Japan's government, the Tokyo government, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. Speaking before the meeting, IOC chief Thomas Bach said he was "absolutely sure that it will be a decision to best protect the Japanese people and all participants". Tokyo 2020 had already reportedly scrapped plans to sell more tickets, and may now face the prospect of organising lotteries among existing holders for the right to attend events. Before the Games was postponed last year, organisers had sold around 4.45 million Olympic tickets and nearly a million Paralympic tickets in Japan. In December, organisers said they would be refunding 18 percent of Olympic tickets bought domestically and 21 percent for the Paralympics. That is still likely to leave many events with more tickets sold than seats available. Japan has seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with nearly 14,500 deaths, despite avoiding the harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere. But the vaccine rollout has been slower than in many developed countries, only picking up speed in recent days. Around 6.5 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. Organisers also face a sceptical public. Polls have regularly shown most Japanese would prefer to see the Games delayed further or cancelled altogether. Recent surveys suggest a softening of opposition, with more in favour of holding the Games than cancelling it -- if postponement is not offered as an option. A survey published Monday found around a third of respondents want the Games to happen, up from 14 percent last month, though a majority still prefer further delay or cancellation. Organisers say strict rules will keep both athletes and the public safe, and Bach said Monday that "well over" 80 percent of people staying in the Olympic Village will be vaccinated. Athletes will be barred from contact with the public and risk being kicked out of the Games if they violate rules including mask-wearing and daily virus tests. In a taste of the complexities ahead, a member of Uganda's Olympic team tested positive on arrival in Japan on Saturday. The team was reportedly all vaccinated and would have had to test negative before travel to Japan.
Tokyo 2020 organisers threw open the doors of the Olympic Village to the media on Sunday, showcasing virus upgrades including a fever clinic just over a month before the Games begin. Organisers are in the home stretch of preparations before the July 23 opening ceremony, and are trying to build confidence that the mega-event will be safe for athletes and the Japanese public. On Sunday, they unveiled the dedicated virus clinic, warned that drinking in groups would be prohibited and said a mixed zone for guests had been scrapped. Warning posters that caution residents to take anti-virus measures including room ventilation have been placed throughout the mini-city, which can sleep 18,000 athletes and team members during the Olympics and 8,000 during the Paralympics. The fever clinic, separate from the main medical facility, will be used to test and isolate people suspected of virus infection or considered close contacts of those who test positive. "If there is suspicion of being infected... we should be able to properly isolate this person," said Takashi Kitajima, general manager for the village. "This is just another example of how we are stringently managing matters about possible Covid infections," he told reporters. Other measures include reduced seating for diners, plexiglass shields between gym equipment, and a kit of hand sanitisers and soap to be handed to village residents. Built on reclaimed land looking out over Tokyo Bay, the village has been empty except for workers since the event was postponed last March. Opening in just over a fortnight, the village will be particularly important for athletes this Games because they are barred from going anywhere else except training and competition venues. Under strict virus rules, athletes will be tested daily and required to wear masks except during competition, eating and sleeping. And there will be no partying, officials warned. "When you drink alcohol, in principle, you are requested to drink alone," said Kitajima. Competitors can only enter the village shortly before their event and must leave within 48 hours of being eliminated or their competition ending. And conditions won't exactly be luxurious, with single rooms of nine square metres (100 square feet) and doubles of 12 square metres (130 sq ft). Beds are made from recyclable cardboard, but are tough enough to stand up to beefy weightlifters and towering basketball players, organisers say. Olympic officials expect most of those staying in the village will have been vaccinated, but the rules apply regardless of inoculation status, and athletes could be kicked out of the Games if they fail to comply. In a taste of the challenges ahead, a member of the Ugandan Olympic delegation that arrived in Japan on Saturday tested positive for the virus, despite reportedly being vaccinated and testing negative before travel. The safety measures are set to make for a Games like no other, with overseas fans already banned and a decision on domestic spectators expected next week. Organisers are battling public opposition to the Games, with national polls regularly showing most Japanese would prefer the event be delayed or postponed. But recent surveys have showed sentiment may be shifting as the Games approach. A handful of protesters stood outside chanting against the Olympics as media toured the village, which will be transformed into thousands of luxury bayside condos after the Games. Around 900 of the units -- some carrying a price tag of 170 million yen ($1.5 million) -- were sold before Tokyo 2020 was pushed back by a year.
* Omi expert report says no spectators is least risky option * Hashimoto favours cap of up to 10,000 at Olympic stadiums-report * Final decision on spectators expected as early as Monday Japanese medical experts warned on Friday that holding the Olympics during the Covid-19 pandemic could increase infections and said banning spectators was the least risky option, setting the stage for a possible face-off with organisers. The experts, led by top health adviser Shigeru Omi, issued their warning in a report released after Tokyo 2020's organising committee chief told the Sankei newspaper she wanted to allow up to 10,000 spectators into stadiums for the Games, which begin on July 23. Japan is pushing ahead with the multi-billion-dollar Games, postponed last year as the coronavirus was spreading around the world, despite opposition from the public, worried about another surge in infections. Organisers have banned spectators from overseas but have yet to decide on domestic ones. Cancellation of the Games - originally intended to showcase Japan's recovery from a devastating earthquake and nuclear crisis a decade ago - would be costly for organisers, the Tokyo government, sponsors and insurers. "This event is different from ordinary sports events in scale and social interest and because it overlaps with summer vacations," the experts said in their report. "There is a risk the movement of people and opportunities to interact during the Olympics will spread infections and strain the medical system." They said that holding the Games without spectators was the "least risky" option and desirable. The final decision will be taken at a meeting as early as Monday between organisers, including Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee, and representatives from the national and Tokyo governments. Tokyo 2020 head Seiko Hashimoto told the Sankei newspaper in an interview published on Thursday she wanted the Games to be with spectators, and would head into the meeting with that in mind. The advice from Omi would inform talks with the IOC and others, she said. In a sign preparations are moving ahead, athletes from Uganda were due to arrive on Saturday, Kyodo news reported. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government decided on Thursday to end emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo while keeping some "quasi-emergency" restrictions. While Omi said no spectators was the most desirable option, his experts have floated the possibility that events could have up to 10,000 fans, but only in areas where the "quasi-emergency" measures, such as shorter restaurant hours, have been lifted. Tokyo is scheduled to be under such restrictions until July 11. The current state of emergency, the third since April last year, expires on June 20. The lifting of previous emergencies has been followed by increased infections and strains on hospitals. Organisers should be prepared to act swiftly to ban spectators or declare another state of emergency if needed, the experts said. If spectators are allowed, rules should be strict, such as limiting fans to local residents, the experts said. Omi, a former World Health Organisation official, has become increasingly outspoken about the risks from the event. He told parliament this month it was "not normal" to hold the Games during a pandemic. Other Japanese health experts and medical organisation have been much more vocal, calling for the Games to be cancelled outright. The public remains worried. Some 41% of people want the Games cancelled, according to a Jiji news poll released on Friday. If the Games go ahead, 64% of the public want them without spectators, the poll found. One of the signatories of Omi's recommendations, Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura, said he believed cancelling the Games would be best, but the decision was for the government and organisers. "If the epidemic situation worsened, no spectators and cancelling the Games in the middle (of the event) should be debated," he told Reuters. Japan has not experienced the explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen elsewhere but a recent surge and an initially slow vaccinations rollout prompted concerns about strains on the medical system. The country has recorded more than 776,000 cases and over 14,200 deaths, while just 15% of its population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccination.
* BOJ keeps rate targets unchanged * BOJ extends Sept deadline for pandemic-relief programme * BOJ to nudge banks to boost loans on climate change * New climate change scheme to be rolled out this year - BOJ The Bank of Japan surprised markets on Friday by unveiling a plan to boost funding for fighting climate change, joining a growing number of central banks stepping up efforts to address its economic and financial fallout. The central bank also maintained its massive stimulus to support the economy and extended a September deadline for its pandemic-relief programme, suggesting that Japan will lag well behind the United States in ending crisis-mode policies. "In Japan, inflation had not reached 2% even before the pandemic. As such, we must continue with our ultra-loose monetary policy even after the pandemic subsides, in order to achieve our 2% inflation target," BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told a briefing after the policy decision. The BOJ said it will launch the climate change scheme by the end of this year, and will release a preliminary outline of its plan at its next policy-setting meeting in July. Under the scheme, the BOJ will provide funds to financial institutions that increase loans and investment for activities aimed at combating climate change. While details have yet to be announced, the BOJ said it will be modeled after a similar programme that offers cheap loans to financial institutions that boost lending in areas considered to be growth industries. "The BOJ probably wanted to move in tandem with the government, which recently flagged steps to promote green in its policy blueprint," said Naomi Muguruma, senior market economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. "It is also jumping on the band-wagon of the rising tide among central banks towards linking monetary policy to climate change," she said. While the BOJ does not rule out buying green bonds in the future, the new scheme is better suited to address climate change in Japan where most companies rely on bank loans rather than raise funds from the market, Kuroda said. "Climate change issues could exert an extremely large impact on economic activity, prices and financial conditions from a medium- to long-term perspective," Kuroda said. "By creating this scheme, we can respond flexibly to changes in the external environment regarding climate change," he said. Japan is among the world's most disaster-prone countries with a history of big earthquakes and typhoons. It has been hugely affected by climate change, with heavy rain and floods causing many casualties almost annually. But many Japanese companies have dragged their feet on climate issues compared to their European counterparts, partly due to the country's heavy reliance on thermal and coal power energy. On Friday, Sumitomo Corp's shareholders defeated a resolution requiring the trading house to align its business with international targets on climate change. At the two-day meeting, the BOJ also kept its target for short-term interest rates at -0.1% and for long-term yields around 0%, as widely expected, and extended by six months the September deadline for its asset-buying and loan programmes. While maintaining its assessment that the economy was recovering as a trend thanks to robust exports and output, the BOJ warned that consumption was "stagnating." Kuroda, however, said he was more optimistic about Japan's economic outlook than at the BOJ's previous meeting in April thanks partly to stronger-than-expected overseas growth. "Vaccine inoculation in Japan is speeding up quite a bit. If this continues, there's a chance that consumption may recover faster than expected," he said. "My personal view is that Japan's economic outlook is brighter than before." Japan's economy shrank an annualised 3.9% in the first quarter and is seen making only a modest rebound, if any, in the current quarter as anti-virus measures weigh on consumption. Core consumer prices in May rose 0.1% from a year earlier, marking the first year-on-year increase since March 2020 but remaining far distant from the BOJ's 2% goal.
* Officials weigh allowing up to 10,000 local spectators: reports * Decision on domestic spectators will be made this month: govt * Osaka governor against removing state of emergency 'too easily' Japan will decide this month on whether to allow domestic spectators at the Tokyo Olympics, the government's chief spokesman said on Wednesday, following media reports a proposal to allow up to 10,000 people at events was under consideration. The final call will be made taking into account coronavirus infection conditions and the prevalence of virus variants, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters when asked about the reports. Japan plans to move forward on a proposal that will allow up to 10,000 spectators or 50% of a venue's capacity, whichever is smaller, at events during the Games, Kyodo News said late Tuesday, citing government sources. Television network TV Asahi reported Prime Minister's Yoshihide Suga's administration is reviewing options such as putting a cap for the number of domestic spectators at 5,000 or 10,000. Foreign spectators are already prohibited from the Olympics beginning on July 23 as part of measures planned to deliver what Japanese government and Olympic officials promise will be a ‘safe and secure’ Games. The government's top medical adviser Shigeru Omi will hold a news conference on coronavirus countermeasures at 0850 GMT on Wednesday, the Cabinet Office said. Omi has been outspoken https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/japan-medical-adviser-says-hosting-olympics-not-normal-current-pandemic-state-2021-06-02 in recent weeks about the risks of holding the Games during a pandemic and has said guidance from him and other experts was not making its way to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has tried to quell such concerns by saying that most athletes and media coming to Tokyo will be vaccinated, and that so-called playbooks governing hygiene, movements and testing of participants will further mitigate infection risks. The Olympics have already been postponed by a year amid concerns over how organisers can keep volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public safe when they begin on July 23 after a fourth wave of infections. Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures remain under a state of emergency that is set to end on June 20. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Wednesday he is against lifting the emergency declaration ‘too easily,’ adding he would request quasi-emergency measures to avoid an infection rebound. Japan's sluggish vaccination push is starting to gain steam of late, and recent polls have pointed to acceptance that the Games will go forward. Hofu City, in the southwestern prefecture of Yamaguchi, is vaccinating high school students, far ahead of the rest of the country, before they volunteer to help with pre-Games training there by Serbia's national volleyball team, NHK reported.