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Cancel Osaka's Olympic Torch Relay Leg over Coronavirus: Governor

Japanese torchbearer Azusa Iwashimizu (L), a member of Japan women's national football team, lights the Olympic torch on day one of the torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture (Photo Credit: AFP)

Japanese torchbearer Azusa Iwashimizu (L), a member of Japan women's national football team, lights the Olympic torch on day one of the torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture (Photo Credit: AFP)

Osaka's governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the Olympic torch relay leg in the city should be cancelled due to rising coronavirus cases.

The Olympic torch relay leg in the city of Osaka city should be cancelled over rising coronavirus infections, the region’s governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Thursday.

The call comes with parts of Osaka prefecture and two other Japan regions facing new coronavirus measures to tackle a spike in cases.

“I personally think the torch relay in Osaka city should be cancelled,” Yoshimura told reporters.

“We’d like to start discussions with Osaka city and Tokyo 2020.”

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Tokyo 2020 Games organisers had no immediate comment on the call, which is backed by the Osaka city mayor, according to local media.

“It’s very unfortunate, but the torch relay should be cancelled,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted mayor Ichiro Matsui as saying.

The torch relay began on March 25 from Fukushima, with organisers hoping it will help build enthusiasm across Japan for the Games after a year-long delay because of the coronavirus pnademic.

It is scheduled to travel through Osaka prefecture on April 13 and 14, starting in Sakai city and ending in Osaka city.

The governor of another region, Shimane prefecture, has also suggested he could call for the relay to skip his area if virus measures are not tightened.

Rules already require spectators lining the relay route to wear masks and avoid cheering, and the organisers have said legs could be cancelled if overcrowding occurs.

Coronavirus infections have been rising in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures, with the government expected to announce new restrictions for the regions later Thursday, allowing officials there to require businesses to close early or face fines.

Parts of Japan were placed under a virus state of emergency earlier this year, with Tokyo and surrounding regions the last to lift the measures, on March 21.

There have been warnings that Japan is entering a fourth virus wave, even as preparation continues for the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to open on July 23.

first published:April 01, 2021, 13:55 IST