Fans are to be banned from the Tokyo Olympics after Japan on Thursday declared a state of emergency in response to a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
Coming just two weeks ahead of the 23 July Games, the fourth round of restrictions deals a major blow to organisers, who for months have insisted the Olympics could be held safely.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the move was needed to stem the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant in the Japanese capital, where 920 new cases were reported on Wednesday – the highest number since May.
“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and the need to prevent infections from spreading to the rest of the nation again, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” Suga said.
Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa confirmed organisers had agreed to hold the world’s biggest sporting event without spectators.
There is the possibility, though, that fans will be allowed to attend events taking place outside of Tokyo.
The renewed state of emergency comes into force on Monday and remain in place until 22 August, two days ahead of the Paralympics.
"It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections," said Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto.
Last month the head of a prestigious group of Japanese medics warned the Tokyo Olympics could lead to the spread of coronavirus variants, and even create an Olympic mutation.
Dr Naoto Ueyama, chairman of the 130-member Japan Doctors' Union, said the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government had underestimated the risks of bringing in around 80,000 athletes, officials, judges and journalists from around the world.
Ueyama said the event, postponed from last summer, should be called off.
His comments came after an editorial in the influential Japanese daily newspaper Asahi urged the government of Yoshihide Suga to cancel the event due to the pandemic.