Olympic torch relay in Osaka cancelled, says Japan PM

Most Japanese oppose holding the Olympic Games this summer during the pandemic, surveys have shown.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday the Olympic torch relay scheduled in the city of Osaka has been cancelled amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier, Osaka prefectural governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said that the Olympic torch relay in the city of Osaka should be cancelled amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

Yoshimura had sounded the alarm the previous day that a jump in new coronavirus cases in Osaka was raising fears the western Japanese metropolis was entering a fresh wave of infections that could become its worst yet.

The prefecture, which had just emerged from a COVID-19 state of emergency a month ago, reported 599 new cases on Wednesday. That was a jump from 432 on Tuesday and near the all-time high of 654 set on January 8.

The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics was scheduled to go through Osaka prefecture from April 13-14.

“I think we need to have talks with the city of Osaka, but personally I think the torch relay in Osaka city should be cancelled,” Yoshimura told reporters, adding that he also wanted to have discussions with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee.

The relay began last week in Fukushima and is being seen as the first major test of the Games in holding a large-scale event while implementing stringent health protocols.

Tokyo Olympics organisers are requiring roadside spectators to wear masks, practise social distancing and not cheer out loud to prevent the spread of the virus, and there have been no reports so far of infections arising from the relay.

Although Japan has been affected by the pandemic less severely than the United States and Europe, its vaccination campaign is off to a slow start while some prefectures are seeing an uptick in new infections.

Most Japanese oppose holding the Games this summer during the pandemic, surveys have shown.

Olympic organisers last month decided to bar international spectators from the Games, and this month are due to decide on the maximum capacity for spectators in venues.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.

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