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WHO calls for talks over Covid-19 risks to Tokyo’s Olympic Games
A staff member carries flags after an unveiling ceremony of the Olympic symbol on Mount Takao west of Tokyo. Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed at Tokyo Olympic events, organisers said, but competition could move behind closed doors if infections surge

The World Health Organization said on Monday it would discuss managing Covid-19 risks with Japanese authorities and the International Olympic Committee, after organisers announced some spectators would be permitted to attend the Tokyo Games.

Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, noted that infection rates in Japan have been falling, and said they compared favourably to other countries that were hosting large scale events.

Japan will limit spectators to half a venue’s capacity capped at 10,000 people, a move that flies in the face of the country’s official medical advice.

The decision to push ahead with spectators at the games, even though most of the Japanese public will not be vaccinated against Covid-19, suggests prime minister Yoshihide Suga is willing to risk some extra infections in order to stage a successful event.

FALLING RATES

A decision on how many fans will be allowed at the Paralympic Games will be delayed until July 16, a week before they open, organisers added in a statement.

“What we are glad of is that the rates of disease have fallen persistently and consistently in Japan over the last number of weeks,” Ryan told a Geneva news conference.

“We’re aware of that decision today and we are following up with the IOC and with Japanese authorities. We’ll be having another call with them and their task force this week to consider this new decision regarding attendance at the Olympics.”

Spectators from overseas have already been banned from the multi-billion-dollar extravaganza, which begins on July 23, amid public opposition and deep concern about a potential resurgence in infections.

Ryan said Japan’s rate of 80 infections per million residents in the past week was much lower than in many other countries.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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