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June 24, 2021

Japan's Emperor Naruhito is concerned that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, set to begin next month, could lead to a dangerous rise in coronavirus infections, the head of the Imperial Household Agency, a government organization that serves as the official representative of the Emperor, said Thursday.

 

Naruhito is "extremely worried about the current situation of the Covid-19 infections," said Yasuhiko Nishimura, grand steward of the Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Emperor.

Nishimura pressed various organizing committees to work together and "take every possible antivirus measure so as not to cause the spread of the infections" at both the Olympics and Paralympics.

Emperor Naruhito, 61, holds no official political power but serves as the Honorary Patron of the Tokyo Games and his opinion holds weight with the country’s citizens.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato downplayed Naruhito's unease, stating they were the Emperor's "personal views."

Despite concerns raised by Japan's populace and health experts, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga remains resolute in his efforts to make sure the Games commence on July 23 as scheduled. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, a group of public health specialists criticized the International Olympic Committee, arguing the plans to proceed with the Games are "not informed by the best scientific evidence.” In mid-May, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association became the second group of Japanese doctors calling for the Olympics to be delayed or canceled due to concerns that an influx of people would result in an increase in “the number of sufferers and deaths” related to Covid-19.  Last week, Suga announced at a meeting of the government's coronavirus task force that the government would relax emergency measures in Tokyo and eight other prefectures, noting that daily cases counts had decreased. Although the state of emergency, which had been in place since late April, was lifted, some restrictions will remain in Tokyo until July 11. If infections again begin to spike, "we will quickly take action, including strengthening the measures," Suga said, adding, "we should be most cautious about causing another major upsurge." Earlier this week, Olympic organizers said domestic fans would be allowed to attend events, but venues will have a spectator limit of 10,000 or up to 50% of capacity. On Wednesday, it was announced organizers had decided to ban the sale of alcohol at venues.

Imperial Palace officials said it has not yet been determined whether Naruhito will attend the games in person. 

Two members of Uganda's Olympic nine-member delegation have tested positive for Covid-19 since arriving in Japan, according to officials in Izumisano, including a coach who had been vaccinated. The coach had received negative results on PCR tests before departure but tested positive for the virus at Narita International Airport over the weekend. 

86%of people in Japan are concerned about an increase in Covid-19 cases this summer due to the Tokyo Olympics, according to a Kyodo News poll published Sunday.