Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and Health Minister Katsunobu Kato (L)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and Health Minister Katsunobu Kato (L)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not eager to make changes in the schedule of Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics despite the global pandemic coronavirus scare which has affected 1,56,396 including 5,833 deaths worldwide.

"We hope to overcome the spread of infections first and foremost and hold the Olympics as planned without a hitch," Abe said, according to Xinhua news.

His comments come two days after US President Donald Trump suggested the Japanese capital postpone the Games for a year as the spread of the virus wreaks havoc on the sporting calendar.

"We will respond by closely coordinating with officials concerned, including the IOC (International Olympic Committee). There is no change in this," he said.

The preparations for the Olympic Games have been hit hard since the outbreak of the coronavirus in January. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was suspended on Friday by the Greek Olympic Committee fearful of the potential spread of the virus among the enthusiastic crowd.

The Tokyo organizers have promised to hold the torch relay in Japan as planned. The flame will arrive in Japan on March 20 and the torch relay kicks off in Fukushima on March 26.

"I'd like to go to Fukushima to witness the start of the Olympic torch relay," Abe said.

The Japanese parliament on Friday approved legislation that gives Abe the power to declare a state of emergency to combat COVID-19 but Abe insisted such a declaration was not yet necessary.

The coronavirus has infected more than 700 people across Japan and been linked to 21 deaths. Separately, 700 people on board a cruise ship that docked near Tokyo last month were also infected.

A state of emergency would allow local governments to require that people stay indoors, schools close and public facilities limit use.

Land and buildings could be requisitioned for makeshift hospitals.

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Free Press Journal