While the United States begins to relax its mandates and laws pertaining to COVID-19, other nations around the world are yet in a position to o so. In Japan, for instance, COVID is still wreaking havoc on life and liberty alike -- a major problem as the nation gets set to host the Summer Olympic games.
According to a report by Mari Yamaguchi of the Associated Press, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expanded a COVID-19 state of emergency from six areas in the country to nine. In addition to the three existing areas, which include Tokyo, a state of emergency has now been declared in Hokkaido, Hiroshima, and Okayama.
The state of emergency is a major issue for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held this summer after being postponed from 2020. Speaking to the press, Suga affirmed his commitment to holding the games while also protecting the Japanese by strictly controlling the movement of foreign participants.
"Infections are escalating extremely rapidly in populated areas," Suga said. "As new variants continue to spread, we judged that now is a very important time to stop the further spread of infections."
While a possible further extension of the state of emergency will be decided on after an evaluation of the situation in late May, the Japanese government has become increasingly frustrated with repeated emergency declarations and a slow vaccine rollout. While the Japanese public has become less cooperative with COVID regulations in daily life, there has also been significant opposition to hosting the Olympics altogether.
As shared by a report by Kyodo News, a petition calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics has gathered over 350,000 signatures, with such efforts being organized by Kenji Utsunomiya, a prominent lawyer who served as the former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
"Holding the Olympics should be welcomed by everyone, but that is not possible under the current situation. So the Olympics must be canceled," Utsunomiya said.
While a cancellation of the Olympics is unlikely given the amount of money involved, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate Japan's serving as host nation. On Friday, Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa shared that 45 municipalities across the country have abandoned plans to host athletes for pre-Olympic training camps and cultural exchanges.