• Kyodo, Reuters


The governor of Chiba Prefecture said Thursday he has no plan to allocate hospital beds for Olympic athletes infected with the coronavirus, joining a growing chorus of voices calling on those involved in the Tokyo Games to be denied preferential treatment.

Chiba Gov. Toshihito Kumagai said he has asked the organizing committee of this summer's Olympics and Paralympics, to be held largely in neighboring Tokyo, to refrain from being a drain on medical resources in his prefecture amid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

Touching on the organizing body's hope to work with about 30 hospitals in the capital and its surrounding areas during the Summer Games, Kumagai told a news conference he is not considering allowing "precious beds for COVID-19 patients in the prefecture" to be occupied by Olympic athletes or those working on the games.

Kumagai's comments came a day after the governor of Ibaraki Prefecture said he had rejected a similar request from the organizing body and added the Tokyo Olympics are "not something that must be staged" under any circumstance, proposing that cancellation be considered if the infection situation worsens.

With less than three months until the scheduled opening of the Tokyo Olympics, an increasing number of people in Japan have been calling on the government and Olympic organizers to address public health worries and rethink the holding of the games.

The governor of Kanagawa told reporters Tuesday it cannot exclusively prepare beds for Olympic athletes as the medical system is already struggling to cope with a recent surge in infections.

Governors' reluctance to set aside hospital beds for the Olympics comes as dozens of Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host Olympic athletes due to concerns they will overburden already stretched medical resources.

Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said Friday that 45 out of more than 500 towns registered to welcome international competitors had decided not to accept athletes for training camps and cultural exchanges before the global sporting showpiece as of Friday morning.

Chiba Prefecture said it has been told that the United States' athletics federation would not hold a pre-Olympic camp there out of concern for the safety of athletes.

The city of Ono, Fukui Prefecture, has also called off its host town program for East Timor's delegation.

The government is looking to cover host towns' expenses for COVID-19 countermeasures and has prepared guidelines. But smaller municipalities have had trouble securing the staff needed for the additional work, while an increasing number of overseas teams have been withdrawing on their own.

Shiro Hasegawa, an official at Okuizumo, Shimane Prefecture, said it was no longer possible to host India's hockey team for pre-games training as planned before the pandemic struck.

"There's limited time and cost issues, and it is impossible to have exchange activities between residents and athletes," he said.

Some municipalities have expressed concern about how Japan's medical system would cope if the games turned into a superspreader event, concerns shared by the country's top medical adviser.

"It is extremely important to evaluate how much medical care will be burdened during the (Olympic) period," medical adviser Shigeru Omi told lawmakers on Thursday, repeating concerns he has raised since April.

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