Japan’s western region of Osaka will hold the Olympic torch relay in a park without spectators instead of on public roads, as record coronavirus infections prompted its government to declare a medical emergency on Wednesday.
Health authorities fear a virus variant is unleashing a fourth wave of infections just 107 days before the Tokyo Olympics begin, with a vaccination drive still at an early stage.
Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the street runs for the relay would be cancelled, adding that the medical system faced enormous strain as a more infectious variant sent cases skyrocketing among young people.
“It is almost certain that this mutant strain is highly contagious with a high transmission speed,” he said in televised remarks.
“I would like to ask all residents of Osaka prefecture to refrain from going out unnecessarily. The medical system is in a very tight situation.”
The torch relay will instead take place in the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, a 260 hectare park managed by Osaka prefecture, without any spectators during the event, Tokyo Olympic organisers said.
The Tokyo organising committee “will implement all necessary measures to ensure a safe environment for all torchbearers who wish to run there,” it said in a statement.
The Osaka leg of the relay is scheduled for April 13-14. The prefecture reported 878 new infections on Wednesday, a second-straight day of record numbers.—AP