• AFP-Jiji, Kyodo


More than 80% of Japanese oppose hosting the virus-postponed Olympics this year, a new poll published Monday showed, with just under 10 weeks until the Tokyo Games.

The latest survey comes after Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency Friday as the nation battles a fourth wave of virus infections.

The surge has put pressure on the country's healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.

The weekend survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily found 43% of respondents want the games canceled, and 40% want a further postponement.

Those figures are up from 35% who backed cancellation in a survey by the paper a month ago, and 34% who wanted a further delay.

Only 14% support holding the games this summer as scheduled, down from 28%, according to the poll of 1,527 replies from 3,191 telephone calls.

If the games do go ahead, 59% of respondents said they want no spectators, with 33% backing lower fan numbers and 3% a regular capacity games.

For months, polling has found a majority in Japan oppose holding the Games this summer.

A separate poll by Kyodo News published Sunday showed 59.7% of respondents back cancellation, though further postponement was not listed as an option.

Olympic organizers says tough anti-virus measures, including regular testing of athletes and a ban on overseas fans, will keep the games safe.

But the Kyodo poll found 87.7% of respondents worry that an influx of athletes and staff members from abroad may spread the virus.

The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to open on July 23, while the Paralympics is slated to begin on Aug. 24. Tokyo is among nine prefectures currently under a COVID-19 state of emergency that will last until May 31.

The results concerning the question on holding the Olympics do not have comparable data from previous Kyodo polls as the latest one did not ask whether the games should be rescheduled.

In a survey in April, 39.2% believed the event should be canceled, while 32.8% thought it should be rescheduled, with only 24.5% saying the games should be held as scheduled.

COVID-19 cases have been growing nationwide in recent weeks, putting further strains on the country's medical system. More patients are dying at home due to the difficulty of finding available hospital beds, with the situation worsened by the spread of the new variants and the slow process of inoculation.

In the Kyodo poll, 85.0% said they think Japan's coronavirus vaccine rollout has been slow and 71.5% were dissatisfied with the government's handling of the pandemic, a record high since the outbreak that started when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, was in power.

Amid mounting dissatisfaction with the government's anti-virus response, the disapproval rating for Suga's Cabinet hit the highest level since its launch in September at 47.3%, up from 36.1% in the previous survey in April. The approval rating dropped to 41.1% from 44.0%.

The government is trying to speed up the pace of its inoculation campaign, but it has administered at least one shot to just around 3% of the country's entire population of 126 million, lagging far behind the world average at roughly 9%, according to a University of Oxford tally.

Asked whether Japanese Olympics and Paralympics athletes should be given priority in being vaccinated, 53.9% of respondents said the athletes should be, while 13.1% said otherwise and 32.7% replied they cannot give a clear response.

With the new variants mostly replacing previous strains across the country, 90.3% of the respondents said they feel anxious about the trend.

The latest survey was released on the day when tougher measures against the resurging infections commenced in six prefectures in the country, with Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima coming under an expanded state of emergency as well as Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto covered by a quasi-emergency.

The survey, covering 715 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,254 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 542 and 523 people, respectively.

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