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Holding Olympics under COVID-19 Stage 4 'puts more burden on medical care': gov't adviser

Australian softball team members are seen receiving an explanation about an antigen test at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture on June 1, 2021. (Mainichi/Naotsune Umemura)

TOKYO -- Japan's top government COVID-19 adviser on June 1 said holding the Olympics under the infection index of Stage 4 -- the worst level on the country's 4-point scale -- would "put more burden on medical care."

    Stage 4 is a guideline for the government to declare a state of emergency, which was extended in nine prefectures across Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka on June 1, ahead of June 3 marking 50 days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

    Shigeru Omi, head of the Japanese government's coronavirus countermeasures subcommittee, said at the House of Councillors Cabinet Committee and elsewhere that experts' job was to point out the infection risk, not to decide whether the Olympics can go ahead. He also revealed that he has been unofficially having discussions with infection and medical experts who belong to the subcommittee. It was the first time for the head of Japan's COVID-19 task force to comment at Diet sessions on the risks of moving ahead with the games under Stage 4.

    As medical institutions are already shouldering a heavy load under Stage 4, Omi said subcommittee members "more or less agree" that holding the games "would carry the risk of placing more burden (on the facilities)." He added that the government needed to "make requests to many residents, such as not crossing prefectural borders," emphasizing that movement of people could become active nationwide because of the games, potentially causing infections to spread.

    Meanwhile, Australian softball team members arrived in Japan on June 1. They are the first overseas delegation that has come to Japan for the Olympics after they were postponed. After arriving at Narita International Airport, the team traveled to the Gunma Prefecture city of Ota by bus for a pre-games training camp.

    Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Tamayo Marukawa revealed during a June 1 post-Cabinet meeting news conference that 105 municipalities have canceled plans to host overseas athletes for pre-Olympic and Paralympic training camps and post-games interaction programs due to reasons including the effects of the coronavirus.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Lifestyle and Medical News Department; and Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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