Tokyo might be less than 100 days away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but calling it off is still an option, said a senior Japanese official on Thursday.
Speaking in a televised interview with Kyodo News, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said: “If rising coronavirus cases means ‘this is impossible’, we would have to give up.”
Nikai’s comments came in the wake of a troubling rise in Covid-19 cases in the Tokyo area on Wednesday.
According to Kyodo News, Tokyo confirmed nearly 600 cases, the highest number the city has seen since the government lifted its second state of emergency on March 21.
Japan as a whole reported more than 4,000 cases yesterday, its first massive spike since Jan 28, as health authorities contend with more contagious variants of the virus that are spreading across the country.
The surge in virus infections is fuelling further doubts on whether the games should be held this summer, following the cancellation of the Olympic torch relay in Osaka.
The Olympic flame was initially meant to pass through the prefecture on Tuesday and Wednesday, but these plans were abandoned as case numbers rose.
Local news network Mainichi reported that Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has vowed to keep infections under control in the Japanese capital, to ensure that the Olympics can take place safely.
Koike added that the quasi-state of emergency that Japan is currently under until May 11 will be a “crucial period in the battle against Covid” before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, scheduled for July 23.
A Kyodo report this week noted that 40% of over 500 people surveyed said that the Japanese government should consider cancelling the Olympics and Paralympics, which have already been postponed for a year.
Another 33% said that the games should be re-scheduled, while 25% thought the games should go on as planned.
In total, about 80% of people in Japan say this year’s Tokyo Olympics should be cancelled or delayed as worries mount about the record surge in coronavirus cases across the country, a Kyodo News poll showed on Sunday.