Eight people who were involved in the Tokyo Olympics torch relay tested positive for COVID-19, the latest sign of trouble for Japan as it grapples with a spike in infections and prepares for the Games this year. summer.
According to an April Kyodo News poll, over 70% of people in Japan want the Olympics, which start on July 23, to be canceled or postponed. The relay runners, which began its Tokyo trip on March 25 in Fukushima, faced criticism and protests.
The Japanese government, however, insists that the Games will go ahead after their delay in 2020 due to the pandemic. The COVID-19 protocols released last month rely on frequent tests and isolation bubbles for athletes and coaches, but not rigorous quarantines or vaccinations. Fans from abroad have been banned and organizers are considering whether to exclude Japanese spectators as well.
On Sunday, the country reported 5,900 new infections, and the number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms hit a record 1,050. Last month Japan declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and other areas in an effort to contain a fourth wave of coronavirus. Japan’s slow vaccination rate, one of the slowest among wealthy nations, isn’t helping. Less than 2% of the population has taken at least one dose.
Read more: Will Japan’s low immunization rate be a problem for the Olympics?
The country of 126 million has recorded more than 600,000 coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus tracker. About 10,000 people died. Despite the spike, infection rates remain far below those in the United States and Europe.
Infected people as part of the Olympic torch relay helped with traffic control and wore masks, according to local media. They had worked in the cities of Amami and Kirishima in Kagoshima prefecture, where the relay passed on April 27. Two organizers who previously collaborated on the relay race on Shikoku Island also tested positive for the virus, including a police officer who helped direct traffic.
The torch relay has been reduced to several locations as it winds through the country. Authorities in the western city of Osaka, a crowded metropolis, canceled the road route through the city and kept it in a spectator-free park.