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  • So behind me is a sign pointing to the number of days until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 24th, here in Tokyo.

  • The Japanese government has stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Tokyo expects hundreds of thousands of people from all across the world when it holds the Olympics in less than five months.

  • The next couple of weeks are critical in keeping this virus in check and preventing any kind of large-scale outbreaks or clusters from developing, at say, a concert or a school where you might get hundreds of people infected.

  • Most schools across Japan are closed.

  • Some cherry blossom festivals are canceled.

  • Then the Tokyo Marathon went ahead with only 200 runners instead of the more than 30 thousand participants it usually draws.

  • Prime Minister Abe, and everybody in his government, wants to make sure that the virus is cleared away and not a major problem, so that the Olympics can go ahead as scheduled.

  • The postponement or cancellation of the Games would be a massive blow to Japan.

  • It has spent seven years planning and 20 billion USD on preparations.

  • In order to keep the games going, Tokyo has to prove that it can stop the spread of the disease, especially after having been criticized for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak on a cruise ship that was docked at Yokohama.

  • More than 700 people got infected aboard the Diamond Princess, and six have died so far.

  • Tokyo said it did its best to prevent the spread of the disease.

  • That's not the only criticism Japan has faced.

  • The number of tests being conducted everyday in Japan is about 900 or 1000 a day, recently.

  • Whereas, for example, in South Korea, thousands, and tens of thousands of tests are being conducted every day.

  • Abe says there are now 4,000 test kits available every day.

  • -Minus the Diamond Princess patients, there have been about 300 cases in Japan so far. -[293 coronavirus cases.]

  • Japan, at the moment, appears to have the virus under control, but maybe the addition of more tests will reveal that there are more virus cases than we thought.

  • Particularly because the virus is no longer linked to people who came from overseas virus epicenters, such as China, Italy, or Iran.

  • In the last couple of weeks, it's become clear that it's spreading independently in parts of Japan, especially in Hokkaido, in northern Japan.

  • And so, clearly, a stepped-up response was needed.

  • The government hopes the new measures will help avert an outbreak such as the one in neighboring South Korea, and help set the stage for the Olympic Games.

  • It also needs to reassure the public that it's taking all the needed steps to stop the virus.

  • There is the political, or you might say psychological benefit that Prime Minister Abe is clearly counting on here.

  • In the sense that he wants to show that he's a decisive leader, he's not taking this lightly, that he's doing whatever it takes to stop this virus from spreading.

So behind me is a sign pointing to the number of days until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 24th, here in Tokyo.

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