WHO pandemic declaration gives headache to Tokyo 


Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Thursday expressed concerns about the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the novel coronavirus outbreak is a global pandemic.

The WHO declaration could affect discussions over the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics, Koike told reporters.

But Koike said emphatically, “There is no way that the Olympics will be cancelled when considering the feelings of Japanese people and the preparations up to this point that we have done.”

The Governor said she believes it is up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which knows every detail of the preparations, to make a final decision.

The WHO declaration comes about four and a half months before the Olympics, which start on July 24. About 11,000 athletes are expected to participate in the Games.

The Paralympics are due to start on August 25.

The Japanese government said the country will continue to prepare for the Games as scheduled.

“There is no change to the government stance that we will make preparations for the Tokyo Olympics as planned.

While coordinating closely with the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo organisers, and Tokyo’s city government, government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Tokyo’s organising committee members also said the Olympics would be held as planned.

“Nothing has changed significantly. We are working with the organisations involved to prepare for the games,’’ an unnamed senior official told Kyodo News.

However, Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the Tokyo organising committee executive board, told Kyodo on Wednesday that he would propose the Tokyo Olympics be postponed by one or two years rather than being cancelled due to the outbreak.

“We need to take a realistic approach’’ as the time is getting near, Takahashi told Kyodo. He added a two-year delay would be easier for organisers to arrange since next year’s sports events are largely scheduled.

The Tokyo organising committee denied knowledge of Takahashi’s suggestion. The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection in Japan has surpassed 1,350, including about 700 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama.

A total of 24 people died of Covid-19. Experts say the actual number is much larger as there are not enough test kits available in the country.


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