Officials: Japan to decide on overseas audiences for summer Olympics in Tokyo by end-March

Tamayo Marukawa, the Olympics minister said on Wednesday, Japan’s Government is going to decide whether to let overseas audiences attend the summer Olympics in Tokyo by the end of the March. Her comments were repeated by the head of the organising committee for the Games, Seiko Hashimoto, who said she would like to reach the decision by March 25.

Meanwhile, polls showed most Japanese oppose holding the Game during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Earlier the Mainichi newspaper has reported that the government was planning to ban overseas audience due to worries that they would spread coronavirus, citing multiple anonymous sources.

Hashimoto told the reporters after a virtual meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and others, “On the matter of overseas audiences … I personally want to have it decided by the 25th of March, when the Olympic torch relay will be kicked off.”

“It’s true that the situation is tough both in and outside Japan … it would not be good if their entry stirred worry among the Japanese people.”

On Wednesday, A Yominuri newspaper poll showed that, if the Games are to go ahead as scheduled than 91% of people in Japan want audiences kept to a minimum or not allowed at all.

The poll which was conducted between Jan 18 and Feb 25 – showed 70% of respondents said they were “interested in the Olympics,” but 58% said that they did not want them to be held this year because of fears over COVID 19.

The 58% opposition was, however about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.

PM Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday the government was considering a two-week extension of a state of emergency in the Tokyo area due to pressure on the medical system.

As of Monday, Japan has so far confirmed 431,250 coronavirus cases and 7,931 deaths.

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