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Japan shrugs off Emperor Naruhito's concern about COVID-19, Olympics

The office of Japan's Emperor Naruhito expressed concerns Thursday about health and safety during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
The office of Japan's Emperor Naruhito expressed concerns Thursday about health and safety during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- Japan's central government dismissed remarks from the emperor's office after the Imperial Household Agency said Emperor Naruhito is concerned about a surge in coronavirus cases during the Tokyo Olympics.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Thursday Tokyo is confident it will hold a safe Olympics.

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"I would like to ask the Imperial Household Agency for details, but as I have said, we will realize a safe and secure games," Kato said, according to Kyodo News.

Kato also played down the emperor's remarks, which some local observers see as the withdrawal of royal support for the Summer Games.

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The Japanese spokesman for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that the emperor's office was expressing personal views, according to local press reports.

Doubts about a COVID-free Olympics have been building in Japan, where medical experts have warned the event could lead to a surge in new cases as athletes from around the world mix and mingle during competition.

Yasuhiko Nishimura, the grand steward of the agency, had said Thursday the emperor shares the public's concerns, Fuji News Network reported.

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Naruhito "harbors concerns that the hosting of the Olympics may lead to the continued spread of COVID-19," Nishimura said, according to the report.

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"His majesty is very worried about the current infection situation of the COVID-19 disease."

Japan confirmed 1,779 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a number that is greater than the daily caseload of a week ago reported on June 16, according to NHK. The increase in the number of cases is correlated with the lifting of a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas, the report said.

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Tens of thousands of Olympic volunteers have quit, according to CNN. On Saturday Japanese officials confirmed a coach in Uganda's Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19.

Uganda Olympic Committee President Donald Rukare has said the Ugandan delegation had all been fully vaccinated with two shots of AstraZeneca vaccines.

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