TOKYO: A top member of Japan's ruling party has warned the Tokyo Olympics could be cancelled if they are "no longer possible" as virus cases spike in the country, media reported on Thursday (Apr 15).
"We need to cancel without hesitation if it's no longer possible," Jiji Press agency quoted Toshihiro Nikai as saying.
"If infections spread because of the Olympics, I don't know what the Olympics is for," added Nikai, who is the Liberal Democratic Party's secretary-general and second most powerful figure.
The comments were reportedly made during the recording of a television programme.
"It's important for Japan to foster excitement with support from the public, and it's an opportunity," the Mainichi newspaper quoted Nikai as saying.
"We definitely want to make it a success," he added, according to the daily, while warning "there are many issues to solve".
READ: Olympics 'difficult' after COVID-19 spikes, warns Japan medical group
The world's biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.
Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended a state of emergency, and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.
The government is pushing ahead with preparations incorporating social distancing measures and restrictions on spectators for the Games set to begin on Jul 23.
Polls indicate little support in Japan for holding the Games during a global pandemic. "Canceling Olympics" was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday with more than 20,000 tweets from users.
The comments come as health experts have in the past day raised alarm at the infection spread and strain on the medical system.
Japan's top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, acknowledged the pandemic had entered a fourth wave, driven by mutant strains, with Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura urging in a magazine commentary that the Olympics be postponed.
Olympic organisers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.