COVID-19 Cases

Japan's Abe says Olympics can not be held unless it contains a pandemic

Image:-Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that next year's Tokyo Olympics could not be held unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained, as the governor of the city asked for an extension of Japan's state of emergency.

Last month the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government postponed the Games due to the coronavirus crisis until July 2021.

With the worldwide infection rate of the epidemic climbing and experts suggesting a vaccine is a long way off, doubts have been raised over the chances of holding next year's huge event.

"We've been saying that the Olympic and Paralympic Games must be held in a complete form, in which athletes and spectators can all be safely involved. Unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained, it would be impossible to hold the Games in such a complete form, "Abe told an opposition lawmaker in response.

Abe staked part of his legacy on holding the Games as Japan's longest serving premier, and hoped for a boom in tourism and consumer spending. Japan was raising some $3 billion in domestic sponsorship, an Olympic record, spending nearly $13 billion on preparations.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that the Olympics "must take place in a way that shows that the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic," and warned that Japan should "brace for a protracted battle."

On Wednesday, private radio broadcaster Nippon Television reported that Tokyo confirmed 47 new infections. National tally stands at 13,895 infections including 413 deaths, NHK said.

While that tally is still low in comparison with other nations, critics say Japan is not doing enough testing to reveal the extent of a problem that has pushed some hospitals to the brink.

Reflecting that view, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters the situation in Japan's capital remained "difficult" and called on Abe's cabinet to extend the nationwide emergency, which is due to end on May 6.

Abe's observations echoed statements made this week by other senior Japanese officials.

President Yoshiro Mori of Tokyo 2020 told Nikkan Sports on Tuesday that if they couldn't be held in 2021, the Games would be "scrapped" The head of the Japan Medical Association (JMA), Yoshitake Yokokura, also told a news briefing on Tuesday that "unless an effective vaccine is developed, I expect it will be difficult to host the Olympics"