• Kyodo


Japan’s top COVID-19 adviser on Wednesday criticized International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach for visiting Tokyo again to attend the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, saying it runs counter to “common sense” amid an alarming rise in coronavirus infections.

“I wonder why he bothered to come. He should be able to judge using common sense,” said Shigeru Omi, chairman of a government subcommittee on the coronavirus response, at a Diet committee session.

Omi questioned the rationale behind Bach’s decision to travel again to Tokyo to take part in events related to the Paralympics, given that the government has been urging people to stay at home and telework to help curb coronavirus infections, and suggested the Olympic chief’s return to Tokyo would send the wrong message to the public.

“He has already come here. Hasn’t he already gone to Ginza? That’s what I think as an ordinary person, not necessarily as a member of the expert committee,” he said in response to a question from an opposition party lawmaker.

“If necessary, I think he can do it online,” Omi added, a day after the opening ceremony of the Paralympics was held at the National Stadium.

Since the beginning of the Olympics on July 23, Tokyo has set records for daily cases of COVID-19 on many occasions, with health experts describing the current situation as being at “disaster level.”

Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July and the scope of the measure has expanded to other areas of Japan, while the capital’s medical system is under strain from rising numbers of serious COVID-19 cases.

Bach, invited by the International Paralympic Committee, arrived in Japan on Monday. Before leaving Japan last time, the IOC president’s conduct came under fire from some citizens.

A day after the Olympics ended Aug. 8, the IOC president was spotted strolling in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza shopping district accompanied by bodyguards, even though athletes were required to follow strict COVID-19 rules and were barred from going sightseeing.

The government has also told the public to avoid nonessential outings. Pictures and videos of his visit to the shopping area were widely shared on social media, with many complaining of double standards.

Omi, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s COVID-19 adviser, and other infectious disease experts had warned that coronavirus cases would swell after the start of the Olympics, even though Suga and the Tokyo Organising Committee have maintained that the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo has no direct link to the Games.

But many critics have argued that the festive atmosphere created by the international sporting events has lowered the public’s guard against the COVID-19 crisis.

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