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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 28 February, 2020

Tokyo Olympics remains on track amid coronavirus fears, but organisers say 'no plan B' in place

Covid-19 has infected almost 64,000 people globally.

A staff member wearing protective equipment before entering a lab in China.
A staff member wearing protective equipment before entering a lab in China.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

TOKYO OLYMPIC ORGANISERS have said there is “no plan B” for the 2020 Games, which are due to open in just over five months but have been jolted by the outbreak of coronavirus in neighbouring China.

Covid-19, the new name for the coronavirus, has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China.

There has been only one death in Japan but fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.

“The advice we’re received externally from the WHO (World Health Organisation) is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” said John Coates, the head of an International Olympic Committee inspection team.

Coates and Tokyo organisers took questions at a news conference today, all of which were about the Covid-19 virus, or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan. 

A reporter asked Tokyo organising committee president Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the games are going ahead, would there be any “organisational changes”.

“No, at this stage no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Mori, a former prime minister.

“We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track,” Coates said in his opening statement.

He was asked if he was 100% confident the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24, and replied: “Yes.”

He spoke positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes — one of the largest delegations.

“We continue also to monitor particularly the Chinese that will be coming here,” Coates said.

“You’ll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That’s the athletes and officials.”

Others away from the Olympic circle are uncertain what course the virus outbreak will take.

“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” said Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan.

“So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end. We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.”

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