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As Olympics Loom, Japan Expands State of Emergency

IOC Chairman Thomas Bach's trip has been canceled
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2021 11:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – Japan is set to further expand a coronavirus state of emergency, currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures, to nine areas as the government is determined to hold the Olympics in just over two months. Japan, where less than 2% of the public has been fully vaccinated, has been struggling to slow infections ahead of the Games, per the AP. The three additions include Japan's northern island state of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, as well as Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan. The three areas on Sunday will join Tokyo, Osaka, and four other prefectures already under the restrictions, until May 31, Economy Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. Bars, karaoke parlors, and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don't face fines.

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will make a formal announcement later Friday. The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government's initial plan that relied on less stringent measures that were deemed insufficient. The addition of Hiroshima to areas covered by emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organizers announced that International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach's trip originally scheduled for next week to mark the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay, has been canceled. Suga’s government is under heavy pressure from the public increasingly frustrated by the slow vaccine rollout and repeated emergency declarations. Many now oppose hosting the Olympics, and people appear to be less cooperative with stay-at-home and social-distancing requests that are not compulsory anyway.

(Read more Tokyo Olympics stories.)

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