Bach Meets Suga As Tokyo Virus Cases Approach 6-Month High: Tokyo Reported

TOKYO — With the Tokyo Olympics starting in a little over a week, Tokyo reported the greatest number of new COVID-19 cases in six months on Wednesday.

The soaring figures were released on the same day that International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach gave Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga a courtesy call in Tokyo.

Despite the games starting with Tokyo and adjacent prefectures under a national government-imposed state of emergency, both Suga and Bach have vowed that the Tokyo Olympics would be “safe and secure.”

On Wednesday, Tokyo recorded 1,149 additional cases. This was the largest number since 1,184 were recorded on Jan. 22, almost six months earlier. It was also the 25th day in a row that cases were higher than they had been a week before.

A COVID-19 epidemic was detected among workers at a hotel housing Brazilian Olympic team members for pre-games training in Hamamatsu, some 150 miles southwest of Tokyo. Since Monday, eight hotel employees have tested positive, according to the city. The Brazilian players and coaches, who have separate accommodations from the rest of the visitors, have all tested negative.

Suga requested that Bach secure the safety of the Olympics, particularly for the Japanese population, of which only around 20% are completely vaccinated.

“It is very important that all participants take proper actions and measures, including countermeasures against the epidemic, to earn the understanding of our people, as well as for the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Suga told Bach. “As the host of the games, I trust the IOC will make every effort to ensure that all athletes and stakeholders completely comply with these regulations.”

“We’d want to reiterate all of our commitment on the part of the Olympic community to do everything possible to ensure that we do not pose any hazards to the Japanese people,” Bach responded.

According to Bach, 85 percent of the athletes and officials staying in Tokyo Bay’s Olympic Village would be completely immunized. He said that nearly all IOC members and employees were “vaccinated or immune.” According to the IOC, 70-80% of foreign medical officials were immunized.

Fans were barred from all sites in Tokyo and three adjacent prefectures by the IOC and Tokyo organizers last week. Some spectators will be allowed at a few distant venues, and foreign fans were prohibited a month ago.

For the Olympics, around 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of people will go to Japan. Around 4,400 more competitors will compete in the Paralympics.

COVID-19 has been blamed for around 15,000 fatalities in Japan, which is a low amount by many measures but not as good as most of its Asian neighbors.

The Olympic torch relay has also been canceled in Tokyo, as the city council is concerned that it would bring people and spread the illness. The $1.4 billion National Stadium in Tokyo will host the opening ceremony on July 23.

Bach is set to travel to Hiroshima on Friday, and his vice president, John Coates, to Nagasaki on Saturday, to promote the Tokyo Olympics and the start of the so-called Olympic Truce.

The Olympic Truce, which dates back to ancient Greece, was resurrected in 1993 by a United Nations resolution.

Bach came to Tokyo last week and spent the first three days self-isolating at the IOC’s Tokyo offices, a five-star hotel.

Despite resistance from much of the Japanese medical community, the IOC is pushing forward with the Olympics, partially because it relies on the sale of broadcasting rights for about 75% of its revenue.

Later, Bach stated that the IOC “always understood there was this mistrust” among the Japanese people, but that they “must acquire confidence” from the precautionary measures in place.

In a conference call with foreign media, the IOC president said, “You have already seen things evolving slowly but steadily in a previous couple of weeks.” “When the athletes eventually participate, the Japanese people will be very appreciative.”

Bach also said that in the 15 months after the games were postponed, he had reservations “every day” about the games going forward, but that voicing them would have disturbed athletes training to qualify and compete.

“The difficulty was that you couldn’t talk about it,” he explained. “This might have, and probably would have, turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They (athletes) put their faith in us.”

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