Japan looks to ease virus emergency ahead of Olympics
TOKYO (AP) — Japan is expected to ease a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and most other areas this weekend, with new daily cases falling just as the country begins making final preparations for the Olympics starting in just over a month.
Japan has been struggling since late March to slow a wave of infections propelled by more contagious variants, with new daily cases soaring above 7,000 at one point and seriously ill patients straining hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas.
Daily cases have since subsided significantly and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to a less-stringent quasi-emergency for several weeks.
Despite concerns raised by medical experts and the public over the potential risks of holding the Olympics, Suga has said he is determined to hold a “safe and secure” games starting July 23.
Holding the Olympics before elections in the autumn is also a political gamble for Suga, whose support ratings have tumbled due to public dissatisfaction over his virus measures, a vaccination drive criticized as being too slow, and lack of a clear explanation of how he will ensure the virus doesn't spread during the Olympics.
Government-appointed experts met Wednesday to analyze the situation ahead of Suga’s decision on the emergency measures and expressed concern about the potential for infections to climb again after measures are eased. Suga is expected to make a final decision Thursday after more meetings.
Suga placed Tokyo, Osaka and two other areas under a state of emergency in late April and has since expanded the area to 10 prefectures and extended the measures twice. Japan does not enforce hard lockdowns and the state of emergency allows prefectural leaders to order...