World’s oldest person, 118, pulls out of Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay over fears of spreading coronavirus in her care home
- Kane Tanaka, 118, has decided not to take part in the Tokyo Olympics torch relay
- The world’s oldest person was to be a relay runner in Fukuoka, southern Japan
- She withdrew due to fear of spreading Covid at her nursing home, an official said
- It is the latest blow for Olympics, which saw a Covid outbreak in the torch relay
- Six people who helped with relay were diagnosed with Covid, organisers said
The world’s oldest person has withdrawn from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay due to fears of spreading Covid-19 at her nursing home amid Japan’s fourth wave.
Kane Tanaka, 118, from Japan, was set to be a relay participant in Fukuoka, southern Japan, which will start on May 11, but has now withdrawn, an official at her nursing home said on Wednesday.
Kane, who was awarded a Guinness World Record, has decided not to take part in the torch relay as she was concerned about spreading Covid-19 at her care home.
The nursing home official explained: ‘We received an email from her family which said she wanted to withdraw from the relay as she and her family were concerned about spreading the virus at the nursing home.’
Kane Tanaka (pictured), 118, from Japan, has decided not to take part in the torch relay because she and her family were concerned about spreading Covid-19 at her nursing home
It is the latest blow to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which has already been delayed by one year, after the torch relay was hit by a coronavirus outbreak soon after kicking off on March 25.
Six people who helped with the relay were diagnosed with Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases involved in the event up to eight, Tokyo 2020 organisers said on Sunday.
The first positive test connected to the relay, since it began from the northeastern Fukushima prefecture, was a police officer in his 30s, who worked on the relay in Kagawa prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Shikoku.
The officer was guiding traffic in the town of Naoshima and came down with a fever the following day, the Asahi Newspaper reported at the time, citing organisers and prefectural police.
Officials previously said the policeman was wearing a mask and taking social-distancing precautions and other measures.
Meanwhile, some celebrities who were due to take part have also withdrawn from the relay due to safety reasons amid the ongoing pandemic.
Kane Tanaka (above), who was given the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest person, was set to be a relay participant in Fukuoka in southern Japan, which will start on May 11
It is the latest blow to the delayed Tokyo Olympics after the torch relay (pictured: relay event in Osaka on April 14), which kicked off in March, was hit by a Covid-19 outbreak
The torch relay involves 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months, ending at the National Stadium on July 23 to kick off the scheduled opening ceremony.
It comes as Japan is grappling with a fourth wave of coronavirus less than three months before the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Public support for the Games has waned amid concern the event will exacerbate Covid-19 infections, now battering the country in a fourth wave.
Japan last month declared a Covid-19 state of emergency for the major population centres including Tokyo and Osaka to curb the resurgence of infections.
The government is considering an extension of the measures, the Yomiuri Newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a mass vaccination centre will be set up in Tokyo this month in a bid to speed up the country’s Covid-19 inoculation campaign before the Olympics.
The Defense Ministry tweeted it had been asked by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to set up the Tokyo vaccination centre by May 24 with plans for it to operate for three months. The facility will service residents in the capital and the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.
Local media reported the government planned to use Moderna Inc’s vaccine to inoculate about 10,000 people each day at the centre. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said those decisions had not yet been made.
The torch relay (pictured on April 14) involves 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan for four months, ending on July 23 to kick off the scheduled opening ceremony
Japan is grappling with a fourth wave of coronavirus less than three months before the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympic games (pictured: Olympic rings in Tokyo on April 20)
Japan began vaccinating its sizable elderly population this month but only about 1.5 per cent of the country’s entire 126 million population has been inoculated, according to a Reuters tracker.
Last month, Japanese towns and cities which are set to host Olympic teams said they were refusing to house athletes due to costly safety measures amid the fourth wave.
The western town of Okuizumo spent more than $5 million preparing to welcome India’s hockey team for a pre-Games training camp, only to scrap the visit because of Covid-19.
After spending money on upgrading sports facilities, Okuizomo balked when it became clear it would have to provide bubble-like biosecurity measures with regular virus tests and medical care.
‘We wanted to have one of the world’s top tier teams visit our town and show their skills to local children,’ town official Katsumi Nagase said. ‘But that seems impossible now.’
Instead of giving residents the chance to meet elite athletes and try out new sports, towns will have to ditch any physical contact, school visits and public training sessions.
Kurihara city in northern Miyagi prefecture was planning to host South Africa’s hockey team, but decided the expense was no longer worth it given the limitations imposed by virus measures.
Japan declared a COVID state of emergency for the major population centres including Tokyo and Osaka to curb infections last month (above: bar is closed during emergency on April 25)
A mass vaccination centre will be set up in Tokyo this month to speed up Covid inoculations before the Olympics (pictured: elderly woman given jab in Nagano Prefecture on April 21)
‘It’s a project that will use our tax resources,’ Hidenori Sasaki, an official with the local board of education, said.
‘If it becomes just athletes holding a training camp without any exchanges with local residents, local citizens won’t enjoy the benefits.’
In some cases, Olympic teams have even cancelled, worried about the risk of infection before the Games.
Australia’s swimming team ditched its plan to train in Niigata’s Nagaoka city, its mayor told media in March.
And Canada’s table tennis team will no longer go to Nagano’s Okaya city, which instead plans to put posters of athletes around town, said Tomoko Hirose of the city’s planning division.
‘Our cheering may become a one-way engagement, without physical exchanges, but given the situation, we just have to move on,’ Hirose said.
It comes after the head of the Tokyo Olympics Seiko Hashimoto assured the world that the postponed games will open in three months and not be cancelled despite the surging Covid-19 cases.
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