Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Friday to work toward a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics later this month after organizers said the global sporting event will be held mostly without spectators amid a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
"I will give my utmost in achieving safety and security, including taking border control measures," Suga told reporters. "I have repeatedly said it is the government's responsibility to realize a safe and secure games."
The Olympics organizers said Thursday the Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators at all venues in and around the Japanese capital after the government decided to put Tokyo under another state of emergency until Aug. 22.
The organizers previously sought to stage the Olympics, slated to begin July 23, in front of a limited of number of fans, but the games will be held behind closed doors at venues in the capital and Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures amid rising concern they could be a superspreader event.
The government decision to declare a fresh state of emergency came after a spike in new cases of the coronavirus in Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said he respects the organizers' decision as it was a conclusion reached after repeated discussions.
"Unlike the previous games, there are many restrictions to the games this round, but we hope to stage a historic games that provide dreams and hopes to children," Kato said at a regular news conference.
Members of the ruling coalition supported the move to go without spectators, while opposition forces were critical of the decision as too slow, insufficient and inconsistent.
"An appropriate decision has been made," health minister Norihisa Tamura said at a press conference, while urging the public to watch the games at home to contain the pandemic.
"If the infections do not spread, it will be a successful Olympics," he said, adding, "We want people to make it an Olympics in which we fight against the novel coronavirus together with athletes."
Keiichi Ishii, secretary general of Komeito, the coalition partner of Suga's Liberal Democratic Party, showed understanding toward the decision, saying the prime minister never insisted on allowing spectators and previously said he would not rule out making the Olympics a no-spectator event if he declared another state of emergency.
"We have seen cases in which infections spread in European countries and the United States despite strict lockdowns," Ishii said, adding antivirus measures require delicate handling.
But Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, was critical about not imposing a total ban on spectators, referring to venues outside of the Tokyo area.
"I don't see consistency. The rule of going without spectators should be consistent, including marathons in Sapporo," Azumi said.
Tomoko Tamura, policy chief of the Japanese Communist Party, called for canceling the Olympics altogether.
"From the standpoint of containing the infections, it is unthinkable to hold the Olympics with spectators," even partially, she said.
Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki said the decision to ban spectators at venues in the Tokyo metropolitan area was slow, and urged the government to compensate travel agencies and others affected by hotel cancellations prompted by the decision.