Osaka – The Olympic torch relay planned for the city of Osaka has been canceled due to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday evening.
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said earlier today that the torch relay section to be held in Osaka city later this month is expected to be suspended due to the strong rebound in infections at coronavirus.
The comments about the national relay that started in Fukushima prefecture a week ago come as the government plans to get Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures to take tougher measures against the virus.
The governor of Osaka said he must ask residents to refrain from going outside once the central government agrees the West City to implement more stringent anti-COVID-19 measures under ‘a revised law which entered into force in February.
Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui also said the relay scheduled for April 14, the second and final day in the prefecture, should not take place, and that a ceremony would be held without spectators.
Still, Yoshimura said segments in other Osaka municipalities could still be detained by implementing strict anti-virus measures.
The Olympic flame from the Tokyo Games, which have been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to travel to all 47 prefectures across the country. The 121-day event began in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25.
The Olympic Organizing Committee has implemented various virus countermeasures for the relay, including encouraging people to follow the event using live online broadcasts. Roadside spectators have been urged to wear masks and keep away from others to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, some sections of the relay were very crowded, although the committee said segments could be skipped if too many people showed up to watch the event.
Osaka has seen an increase in COVID-19 infections since the state of emergency was lifted for the prefecture a month ago. On Thursday, it reported 616 new cases, confirming more than 600 new cases for the first time since January 16.
The revised law allows the designation of semi-emergency status to municipalities affected by a rapid increase in the number of new infections.
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