Japan will make preparations to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer as planned, the top government spokesman said Friday, though prospects for containment of the new coronavirus remain elusive.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the International Olympic Committee has "confidence" in Japan's response to the virus.
"We will coordinate closely with the IOC, the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government, and move ahead with preparations to make sure athletes and spectators can feel safe and secure throughout the games," Suga said at a press conference.
The Olympics will run from July 24 to Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
The outbreak of the pneumonia-causing virus that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has spread to over 25 countries, including Japan. But the vast majority of confirmed deaths and infections are in China.
A gradual rise in infections in Japan has tested the government's ability to prevent the spread of the virus in mass gatherings such as the Summer Games.
More than 700 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan, the most outside China, but 634 cases were found on the Diamond Princess, a quarantined cruise ship docked at Yokohama near Tokyo.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, meanwhile, criticized a London mayoral candidate who has said the city could host the games in place of Tokyo in the wake of the outbreak.
"It's inappropriate to say something that will make the coronavirus an issue for the mayoral race at a time when it has attracted global interest," Koike told a press conference.
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for mayor, tweeted Wednesday, "London can host the Olympics in 2020. We have the infrastructure and the experience. And due to the coronavirus outbreak, the world might need us to step up."
Tokyo and London have a friendship city relationship. Koike said, "When I visited London last time, I agreed with Mayor Sadiq Khan to strengthen our cooperative relationship toward the Tokyo Games."
London hosted the Summer Games in 2012.
A number of events across Japan have been impacted by the outbreak. On Friday, the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, decided to postpone its convention scheduled for March 8 at a Tokyo hotel, which was to be attended by about 3,000 LDP members.
On March 1, the annual Tokyo Marathon will be open only to athletes entered in elite categories, while the Japanese Para-Sports Association has canceled a three-day boccia event scheduled from Feb. 28 in the capital, which would have involved foreign competitors.
Japan's health ministry has asked organizers to "re-examine" the need to hold big events, warning the risk of infection will increase if people are not given adequate personal space at indoor facilities.
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