Japan extends Covid state of emergency as Paralympians arrive

Tokyo, Aug 17 (EFE).- The Japanese government announced Tuesday it will extend its state of emergency in Tokyo and seven other prefectures until September 12, as coronavirus infections across the country spike, increasing pressure on the healthcare system.

The increase in cases is driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, according to Japanese Prime Minister Yohishide Suga, who announced the decision after a meeting with experts advising the government on the pandemic.

The extension of the state of emergency, which was due to expire on Aug. 31, comes as the Olympic village in Tokyo reopened on Tuesday to host parathletes a week before the Paralympic Games, the largest sporting event for differently-abled athletes between Aug. 24 and Sep. 5.

The Tokyo 2020 organizers decided on Monday to hold the competition behind closed doors and without any spectators, similar to the Olympics a few weeks ago, with the sole exception of allowing the entry of schoolchildren as part of an educational program.

The safety of the athletes is of particular concern to the organizers as the pre-existing medical conditions of some parathletes puts them at risk of developing serious symptoms of the disease.

As with the Olympic athletes, safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections inside the village’s facilities including the mandatory use of masks, social distancing and daily PCR tests.

Moreover, the duration of the parathletes’ stay in Tokyo is limited. They will be allowed to enter the village for seven days prior to their competition and must leave the facilities two days after the last event.

The president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said she was “convinced” that it is possible to safely hold the Paralympics by implementing measures based on the experience gained during the Olympics, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

But the organizers also highlighted the lack of information on the number of vaccinated parathletes since many of them decided not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine due to their health conditions.

A total of 4,400 Paralympians from 160 countries will compete, arriving in Japan during its worst Covid-19 wave since the start of the pandemic.

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