Japan to Ease COVID-19 Restrictions as Tokyo Olympics Near

  • VOA News

    June 18, 2021 08:09

    Japan unveiled plans Thursday to slowly ease the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures in time for next month's opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the government will switch to "quasi-emergency" measures once the state of emergency expires Sunday. The looser restrictions would remain in place until July 11, just 12 days before the start of the Olympic Games. 

    In addition to looser restrictions, the government is expected to announce a plan to allow up to 10,000 spectators to enter venues holding Olympic events.  

    The initial one-month state of emergency was first declared in April due to a surge in new COVID-19 infections in the Japanese capital and beyond, and was extended in late May. The surge prompted staunch public opposition against staging the Olympics, especially among a prominent group of medical professionals that urged Suga to call off the games.  

    The Tokyo Olympics are set to take place after a one-year postponement as the novel coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the globe. Foreign spectators have been banned from witnessing the event.

    People walk by posters to promote the Olympic Games planned to start in the summer of 2021 in Tokyo on June 16, 2021. /AP

    ◆ Disappointing Eesults for CureVac Vaccine

    Late-stage testing of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine has revealed some disappointing results.  Preliminary findings show the vaccine developed by German biophaaceutical company CureVac is just 47 percent effective against the virus -- below the 50 percent threshold set by the World Health Organization.  

    The vaccine has been given to 40,000 volunteers in Latin America and Europe.  Franz-Werner Haas, CureVac's chief executive, has blamed the disappointing results on the huge number of COVID-19 variants that have emerged since the start of the pandemic.

    The European Union had reached an agreement with CureVac to purchase at least 225 million doses of the vaccine. The company says the Phase 3 trial will continue, with final results expected within a few weeks. 

    ◆ Growing Concern in Africa

    A report by the Associated Press Thursday reveals that public health officials on the African continent are alarmed over the slow rate of vaccinations and a surge in new COVID-19 infections. The AP says the continent has received only 2 percent of all vaccine doses administered globally, despite its 1.3 billion people accounting for 18 percent of the world's population.  Some countries have yet to inoculate a single person. 

    The World Health Organization says nearly 90 percent of African countries are set to miss the global target of vaccinating 10 percent of their people by September.

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