• Kyodo, Reuters


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike met Sunday to discuss the Olympics being held in the capital and COVID-19 countermeasures, with Koike saying they agreed the games are going "very smoothly."

In a nearly hourlong meeting at the prime minister's official residence, they agreed to continue preparations for the Paralympics kicking off next month, Koike told reporters.

The Olympics began Friday with the opening ceremony at the National Stadium, held without spectators after organizers agreed to ban fans at almost all venues to avoid the spread of infections.

Koike called on residents of Tokyo, which is under its fourth state of emergency, to cheer on athletes at home with family and avoid going out.

The capital reported 1,763 new cases of the virus on Sunday, with the seven-day moving average jumping 36.1% from a week earlier.

"More effective steps are necessary" to improve the situation, Koike said, adding that she exchanged views with Suga on "ways to prevent the coronavirus from spreading while resuming social activity."

Hoping the Tokyo Olympics will give him a needed popularity boost heading into a party leadership race and general election this year, Suga has vowed to stage a "safe and secure" Olympics and Paralympics with adequate COVID-19 countermeasures to prevent a fresh surge in infections.

A survey showed Monday that support for Suga slid nine points to 34%, its lowest since he took office last September, clouding his hopes the Tokyo Olympics would boost his ratings.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Nikkei business daily survey conducted between Friday and Sunday said that the country's rollout of coronavirus vaccinations was not going well.

The program has been hampered by a slow start and later supply snarls, and less than one-quarter are fully vaccinated.

Many Japanese fear the influx of athletes and officials for the global sporting event will add to the surge in infections, and 31% in the Nikkei survey said the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, should be cancelled or postponed again.

Fifty-six percent said Japan's border steps for incoming Olympics athletes and officials were "inappropriate," the Nikkei survey showed.

A strict "playbook" setting out rules to avoid contagion mandates frequent testing for the virus, restricted movements and wearing masks by athletes and others in most situations.

The International Olympic Committee said on Sunday, however, that athletes can briefly take off their masks on the podium for 30 seconds for a photo opportunity, as several did after their wins on the day.

The Tokyo Organising Committee has reported 132 positive cases since the beginning of this month, including 13 athletes, 40 games officials and 66 contractors, but excluding those announced by municipalities hosting pre-Olympic training camps in the country.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.