Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, despite growing uncertainty as coronavirus cases rise at home, renewed his determination Friday, January 29, to host the postponed Tokyo Olympics this summer as a symbol of human victory over the pandemic.
Suga, speaking from Tokyo at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, also called for a transparent investigation by the World Health Organization into the pandemic, saying it is key to learning lessons to prepare for future pandemics. He promised to expand an initial $130 million contribution to a fund to help developing countries acquire coronavirus vaccines.
“We are holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer,” Suga said. “I am determined to achieve the games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage around the world.”
Olympic officials have repeatedly said the games will be held in July as planned after a one-year postponement, though various scenarios including the holding of events without spectators are being considered.
Suga repeated his resolve to achieve a “safe and secure” Olympics and pledged to get infections under control in Japan as soon as possible.
“We must learn lessons from this pandemic and be prepared for future crises,” he said. To do so, “a scientific investigation by WHO must be firmly carried out in a transparent way.” He did not say if he was referring to a current visit by a WHO team of experts to Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected.
At home, Suga has been criticized for delaying virus measures until daily cases surged to new highs in late December. He eventually declared a partial state of emergency in early January, issuing nonbinding requests through February 7 for people to avoid crowds or eating out in groups and for restaurants and bars to close early.
New cases in Tokyo have dipped but experts say they have not slowed enough, indicating that the emergency measures could be extended for several more weeks.