Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday expressed his desire to hold the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics WITH local spectators.
A decision on how many spectators will be allowed, if any, will be made by the IOC and Japanese officials as early as Monday but local news outlets report the government is eyeing a cap of 10-thousand spectators at Olympic venues.
"I would like to show the world that Japan can overcome this difficult time through people's efforts and wisdom. For that, I think it is important to hold a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics, curb the spread of infection in Japan during the Games, and to prevent infection after it. I would like to ask everyone to support the athletes at home by watching the Games on TV."
Announced on the same day was an easing of COVID-19 regulations.
The state of emergency in nine prefectures including Tokyo will be lifted on Monday.
The capital along with six other regions will come under a so-called "quasi-state of emergency" until July eleventh, less than two weeks before the Games' Opening Ceremony.
But the idea of easing restrictions and allowing spectators at the Olympics has drawn public criticism AND warnings from health experts about a potential resurgence of the virus.
"It's so obvious they are lifting regulations only to hold the Tokyo Olympics. They can't even hide it. It's so apparent and it frustrates me. We worked so hard to bring down COVID-19 cases, but what's the point if we invite people to come from overseas."
According to local news outlets, Japan's top infectious disease expert Shigeru Omi on Friday sent a formal letter to the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee advising authorities not to allow spectators at Olympic venues.
Omi had earlier called the decision to hold the Games amid the pandemic "abnormal".
This comes as tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem announced on social media that they would not be competing at the Olympics
Nadal citing the wear and tear on his body and Thiem saying he doesn't feel ready to play his best in Tokyo.
Thiem had also missed the Rio Olympics five years ago, reportedly over fears about the Zika virus.
Han Seong-woo, Arirang News.