Tokyo: Japan pledged on Thursday to keep in close contact with Olympics stakeholders at home and abroad to ensure a safe and secure Games even as it prepared to extend a state of emergency across much of the nation, including host city Tokyo.
Concerns remain rife about the safety of the 2020 Olympics, postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with public opinion polls showing a majority of Japanese are opposed to holding the Games this summer amid struggles to control a fourth wave of the coronavirus and sluggish vaccine rollout.
The government is currently preparing to extend a state of emergency across much of the nation originally set to be lifted on May 31, most likely well into June, officials have said - just weeks before the Games are set to open on July 23
Earlier this week, the United States advised against travel to Japan, but Olympics organisers have said this will not affect the Games. The White House on Wednesday said it had been assured by the Japanese government that it will keep in close contact about concerns over the Olympics.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan would continue making every effort to control the virus irrespective of the Olympics, and would be in close contact with concerned parties at home and abroad about the measures being taken in connection with the Games.
"Careful anti-infection measures are a crucial part of being able to deliver a safe and secure event," he told a news conference. "We will maintain close and periodic contact with all those concerned, both within the country and without, to explain what we're doing on this score."
Just over five per cent of Japan has received vaccinations, and it has recorded about 719,000 infections and 12,394 deaths.
The Asahi Shimbun, an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics, carried an editorial on Wednesday urging the Games be cancelled, but a former International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president said later in the day the sports extravaganza should and would go ahead in July.
In a sign of how uncertain the situation remains, however, Australia's major sports leagues and Olympic hopefuls were left scrambling to make contingency plans after authorities announced a seven-day lockdown in the southern state of Victoria to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.