Osaka governor wants to cancel Olympic torch legs in area

TOKYO (AP) — The governor of Osaka prefecture said yesterday that he wants to cancel the torch relay legs going through Osaka later this month, less than four months before the the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the prefecture is coming under new COVID-19 control measures because of rising case numbers. He said that will mean people being asked to stay home except for essential outings.

“I think the torch relay through the middle of Osaka should be canceled,” he said.

The Olympic torch relay began on March 25 in northeastern Fukushima prefecture. It is crisscrossing all of Japan with 10,000 runners and arrives at the opening ceremony at the new National Stadium in Tokyo on July 23.

It is scheduled to go through the Osaka area on April 13 and 14.

The celebration cauldron is seen lit on the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. PHOTO: AP

Tokyo organisers were contacted but did not immediately reply.

Experts have raised concerns about Osaka’s rapid spike and the burden on its medical infrastructure. An international figure skating event is scheduled in mid-April in Osaka.

Japan had 474,773 cases and 9,162 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the health ministry. Osaka reported 599 daily new cases on Wednesday, surpassing Tokyo’s 414.

Japan has handled the virus better than many countries, but not as well as most in Asia.

Director-General of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases Dr Ryuji Wakita said that a new upsurge has already started in parts of the country, including western and northern Japan.

He said infections from new variants of the virus believed to be more contagious are rapidly on the rise in the Osaka region.