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Japan extends state of emergency until weeks before the Olympics as COVID-19 cases remain high

A state of emergency in Japan is set to continue until just weeks before the Olympics, as COVID-19 cases there remain high. 

The Japanese government on Friday announced it would extend the state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures until June 20, The New York Times reports. Japan has been experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19, reporting over 4,000 infections a day, although the number of new cases has been in decline 

"The newly reported cases are on a downward trend, but they are still at a high level," government minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, per the Times

This state of emergency was previously set to end next Monday, according to The Associated Press. The move to extend it comes amid opposition in Japan to going ahead with holding the games in late July as planned. Earlier this month, a poll found a majority of residents are opposed to holding the Olympics in Tokyo, wanting them to be delayed again or canceled. This week, a prominent Japanese newspaper also published an editorial calling on Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to "please call off the Olympics," while Japan Doctors Union Chairman Naoto Ueyama warned holding the games risks creating an "Olympic strain" of COVID-19, The Washington Post reports

According to the Times, just 2.4 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, and "the government's current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July." 

The International Olympic Committee has continued to say that the Olympics, which were delayed a year due to the pandemic, will still go forward in July. On Friday, though, The Wall Street Journal reported that lawmaker Hiroki Masuko, an ally of Tokyo's governor, said Japan should retain the option of canceling or postponing them.

"To ensure we protect the lives and livelihoods of Tokyo residents," he said, "we must keep all options available."