Japanese emperor concerned Games could spread Covid

    The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics raises concerns it could cause further increase in coronavirus cases.

    TOKYO — Japanese Emperor Naruhito is believed to be “concerned” the Games would produce more infection says Yasuhiko Nishimura, head of the Imperial Household Agency Thursday.

    “His majesty is very worried about the current infection situation of the COVID-19 disease,” says Nishimura during a press conference.

    “I suppose that (the emperor) is concerned that while there are voices of anxiety among the public, the holding of the Olympics and Paralympics…may lead to a rise in infections,” adds Nishimura.

    Nishimura says he has “not heard such words directly from his majesty” but “feels that way” as he talks to the emperor every day.

    Meanwhile, Japan’s top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato plays down the imperial remarks, a day after Tokyo marked it has a month until the Olympics opens. He says the statement represents the grand steward’s “view.”

    “I would like to ask the Imperial Household Agency for details, but as I have said, we will realize a safe and secure games,” says Kato during a separate press conference.

    As the Games’ opening comes closer, most of Japan’s citizens remain against holding the event despite the government’s and games organizers’ having repeatedly pledged safety during the event.

    Despite a third state of emergency imposed in Tokyo from late April which ended last Sunday, the capital is already experiencing signs of rebound, reporting 619 new infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day spike in a month.

    Eighty-six percent of people in Japan are concerned of the risk of rebound in cases of coronavirus, reports the Kyodo News survey with results released over the weekend.

    Most of Japan’s influential disease experts have warned of a possible resurgence of the virus before or after the Olympics and have called for either cancellation or a no-spectator games.

    The Games opens 23 July and will close on 08 August. The organizers have laid out strict COVID-19 rules for athletes, spectators, and other participants.

    Tokyo is expecting around 11,000 athletes from all over the globe. They will compete in 33 sports. However, they will be kept in a “bubble” and will not be allowed to interact with locals or visit places outside designated venues or accommodations.

    The country has also excluded overseas spectators from the Tokyo Games and has set attendance limits for local fans earlier this week because of fears that the expected influx would trigger a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

    The organizers, with the International Olympics Commission and the Tokyo metropolitan government, agreed to fill venues up to 50 percent of capacity, or up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators, and left open the possibility of hosting the games behind closed doors if the infection situation worsens. (TC/The MiNT)


    Featured image: Many Japanese remain sceptical about the possibility of holding even a scaled-down Games safely during the pandemic. /Photo courtesy EPA-EFE

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