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Olympic torch relay cancelled in Japanese city over COVID-19 surge

Olympic torch relay cancelled in Japanese city over COVID-19 surge

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay kicked off in Fukushima last month. (File photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

TOKYO: A western Japanese city cancelled the Tokyo Olympics torch relay over spiking COVID-19 cases on Wednesday (Apr 14), the second area to scrap the event as the clock ticks down to the postponed Games.

The decision comes 100 days before the 2020 Olympics begin and accompanies fresh concerns about the viability of the event, with virus cases surging in Japan and abroad.

"We will cancel the torch relay in Matsuyama city. We will hold the celebration for the arrival of the flame in a way that will not involve ordinary spectators," said Tokihiro Nakamura, governor of Ehime prefecture.

Emergency medical services in the region are "under extreme pressure" as COVID-19 cases rise, Nakamura said.

He said the decision has been accepted by the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, which did not immediately comment.

READ: Olympics 'difficult' after COVID-19 spikes, warns Japan medical group

READ: Osaka moves Olympic torch run off public roads, declares COVID-19 emergency

The torch relay kicked off on Mar 25 in Fukushima and was supposed to go through Matsuyama - the hometown of golf hero Hideki Matsuyama - on Apr 21.

It was barred from public roads in the Osaka region this week, with torchbearers instead running in a closed park in front of a limited number of family and friends.

The ongoing pandemic is playing havoc with preparations for the Olympics and fuelling uncertainty about whether the huge event can, or should, take place.

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Source: AFP/kg

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