JAPAN has declared a Covid-19 emergency just three months before the Olympics in Tokyo.
The country announced new measures will apply in the capital and three other regions from Sunday, leaving the Games hanging in the balance.
The 2020 Olympic Games were pushed back a year as a result of the pandemic.
They are due to open in exactly three months on July 23, with the Paralympics opening on August 24.
The Sun reports that with rising infections and now tighter restrictions, the Games could be postponed again – although the government and event organisers insist they will go ahead this summer.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said: “Today we decided to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.”
The measures will run from April 25 to May 11 and be tougher than Japan’s last state of emergency.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, the country’s minister for virus response, had earlier warned of a “strong sense of crisis”, arguing the current restrictions were not sufficient.
Officials want to ban all bars and restaurants from selling alcohol, or even shut them down, as well as closing shopping centres, theme parks, theatres and museums.
Spectators will also be barred from sports events, which can continue behind closed doors.
Schools will stay open, but universities are asked to return to online classes.
Mask-wearing, staying home and other measures remain non-mandatory, and experts worry if they will be followed.
The country has recorded about half a million cases and just 10,000 deaths – but numbers are rising in Osaka fuelled by a new, more contagious variant detected in the UK.