Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday there has been no change to the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer despite the recent outbreak of a new coronavirus that has gripped the world.
“In terms of whether to hold the Tokyo Games (as scheduled), I’d like to make it clear that there have been no talks or plans being considered between organizers and the International Olympic Committee since the World Health Organization declared an emergency,” Abe told parliament.
His remark came as coronavirus infections have spread to many countries from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, in central China. The number of people with the pneumonia-causing virus has topped 28,000 and 563 people have died in mainland China, according to the country’s health authorities.
Japan has also reported 45 infections.
Around 3,700 passengers and crew from 56 countries and regions have been quarantined on a cruise ship at anchor off Yokohama since a passenger from Hong Kong was found to have been infected with the virus after he disembarked.
Abe said earlier this week that Japan would work closely with the WHO and other organizations to make sure preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics proceed without any impact from the viral outbreak.
In late January, the WHO declared the outbreak a global public health emergency and the Japanese government has been barring foreigners who have stayed in Hubei Province, which has Wuhan as its capital, within two weeks of their arrival in Japan and holders of Chinese passports issued in the province.
Tokyo Olympic organizers expressed concern about the virus in comments on Wednesday.
“We are extremely worried in the sense that the spread of the infectious virus could pour cold water on momentum for the games,” CEO Toshiro Muto said before a meeting with IOC officials.