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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Thursday (June 17) that Japan would ease emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo, ahead of next month’s Olympic games.

A number of measures, including limiting spectator numbers at big events, will remain in a bid to avoid any rebound in cases at the Games, due to start on July 23.

“I would like to show the world that Japan can overcome a difficult time through people’s efforts and wisdom. For that, I think it is important to hold a safe and secure Tokyo Games, curb the spread of infection in Japan during the period of the Games, and to prevent infection after the Games. I would like to ask everyone to support the athletes at home by watching the Games on TV.”

Polls have shown most Japanese people are worried about the possibility that the Games will spread infections, particularly as vaccination rates are still lower than in other wealthy countries.

“It’s so obvious they are lifting it only to hold the Tokyo Olympics. They can’t even hide that, it’s so apparent, and it makes me frustrated. We worked so hard to bring down COVID-19 cases, but what’s the point if we invite people to come from overseas.”

Media reported that the government was considering allowing up to 10,000 spectators in stadiums during the Games, in line with a plan endorsed by health experts on Wednesday (June 16) for events.