Japan mulls asking Olympic fans for negative Covid-19 tests, vaccinations

Published June 1, 2021
Foreign spectators have already been banned and organisers are expected to make a decision next month on whether Japanese fans will be able to attend the Games. — Reuters
Foreign spectators have already been banned and organisers are expected to make a decision next month on whether Japanese fans will be able to attend the Games. — Reuters

TOKYO: Japan is considering requiring fans attending the Tokyo Olympics to show negative Covid-19 test results or vaccination records, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Monday, as a new poll showed public opposition to the Games remained strong.

Japan extended on Friday a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas to June 20, and with the opening of the Games less than two months away, public confidence has been shaken by a fourth wave of coronavirus (Covid-19) infections and a slow vaccination rollout.

Foreign spectators have already been banned and organisers are expected to make a decision next month on whether Japanese fans will be able to attend the Games, set to run between July 23 and Aug 8, and under what conditions.

In addition to other measures like banning loud cheering and high-fives, the Yomiuri said the government was considering whether spectators should be required to show a negative test result taken within a week of attending an Olympic event.

The government’s top spokesman Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Monday he was unaware of any decision on the issue.

“In order to make the Games a success it’s necessary to take into account the feelings of the people,” Kato said, adding that organisers were preparing to ensure measures were in place to stage the event safely.

The Tokyo Olympics organising committee did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the newspaper report.

But Toshiaki Endo, vice president of the committee, said some spectators could be allowed into venues, although he personally preferred a total ban in order to reassure the public amid widespread opposition to the Games.

The Yomiuri report provoked thousands of posts on social media criticising the country’s continued push to host the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic.

The term ‘negative test certificate’ was trending on Twitter in Japan, garnering over 26,000 tweets by Monday afternoon.

“If you can’t eat, cheer, or do high-fives, what’s the point in paying for a ticket and an expensive test?” asked a Twitter user, while others questioned the accuracy of such tests.

In a poll published by the Nikkei newspaper on Monday, over 60 percent of respondents were in favour of canceling or delaying the Games, a result in line with previous polls by other media outlets.

The Games have already been postponed once due to the pandemic but the Japanese government and the International Olympic Com­mittee have said the event will go ahead under strict Covid-safe rules.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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