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Japan planning to ban overseas spectators over COVID-19 fears: report

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    Reuters

Tokyo, Japan   /   Thu, March 4, 2021   /   08:30 am
Japan planning to ban overseas spectators over COVID-19 fears: report Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee speaks while holding a lantern containing the Olympic flame during an event to mark one year until the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the National Stadium in Tokyo on July 23, 2020. Japan held subdued celebrations on July 23 to mark one year until the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with the coronavirus pandemic raising stark concerns about whether the Games will go ahead. (Agence France Presse/Du Xiaoyi / POOL /)

Japan's government is planning to stop overseas spectators coming to the Summer Olympics due to worries they will spread the coronavirus, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing multiple unnamed sources.

The final decision will be made this month after talks with the International Olympic Committee and other parties, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, a Yomiuri daily poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Japanese said they were "interested in the Olympics", although 58 percent said they did not want them to be held because of fears over COVID-19.

In the survey, conducted between Jan. 18 and Feb. 25, when much of the country remained in a coronavirus state of emergency, 30 percent of the respondents said they were "very interested" in the Summer Games and 40% said they were "somewhat interested", for a combined 70 percent.

But concerns over the impact on coronavirus infections kept most opposed to holding the event this year, although the 58 percent in opposition is about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.

If the Games were to go ahead as scheduled, 91 percent of respondents said spectators should be kept to a minimum or not allowed at all, the Yomiuri poll showed.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic and rescheduled to take place this year from July 23.

While coronavirus infection numbers are low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains in a state of emergency, with restrictions in place for spectator numbers for big sporting and cultural events, as well as closing times for bars and restaurants. The country remains closed to non-resident foreigners.

A Reuters poll published last month showed nearly two-thirds of Japanese companies also oppose holding the Games as planned, swinging from the previous survey showing most in favour.

Japan has so far confirmed 431,250 coronavirus cases and 7,931 deaths as of Monday. Local media reported late Tuesday that Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures were set to ask the government to extend the state of emergency by about two weeks beyond the scheduled end on March 7