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Major Japanese Newspaper Calls for Cancellation of Tokyo Olympics

President of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Seiko Hashimoto delivers opening remarks during a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP)

A major Japanese newspaper has called for the Tokyo Olympic Games to be canceled due to the worsening COVID-19 crisis in the country.

An editorial printed in Wednesday’s edition of The Asahi Shimbun called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to calmly assess the current circumstances and cancel the Olympics.

The editorial criticized the leaders of the International Olympic Committee for being “self-righteous,” especially vice-president John Coates, who said last week the Tokyo Olympics would be held even if a state of emergency were in force. The newspaper said Coates’s comments were out of step with the Japanese public.

Public sentiment against staging the Olympics has been growing amid a surge of new infections that has overwhelmed hospitals across the country. Tokyo and other regions in Japan are under a state of emergency that expires on May 31, but will likely be extended through June.

The Asahi Shimbun, whose liberal-leaning editorial stance places it opposite those of Prime Minister Suga’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is the first major Japanese newspaper to call for the event’s cancelation, despite being one of its major sponsors. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors and hospitals, has also called on Suga to convince the International Olympic Committee to cancel the games.

The Shimbun’s editorial comes just two days after the U.S. government issued a warning for its citizens not to travel to Japan because of the new surge of COVID-19 cases.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8 after a one-year postponement as the novel coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the globe.

In Australia, the southern state of Victoria is dealing with a new outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Acting state Premier James Merlino told reporters Wednesday health authorities have identified six new coronavirus infections in Melbourne, bringing the total number of infections in the capital city to 15.

The new cases are linked to an overseas traveler who became infected during his mandatory hotel quarantine phase. Merlino says all the cases are related, which he described as “a good thing,” but said officials are “very concerned by the number and by the kind of exposure sites.” He has imposed new mandatory mask wearing in restaurants, hotels and other indoor venues until June 4, and warned that the next 24 hours “are going to be particularly critical.”

As of Wednesday, there are 167.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world, including 3.4 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Center. The United States leads both categories with 33.1 million total COVID-19 cases and 590,941 fatalities, with India in second place with just over 27.1 million coronavirus cases and 311,388 deaths.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday the world gained a total of 4.1 million new COVID-19 cases over a one-week period that ended May 23, a decrease of 14 percent, while recording 84,000 new fatalities during that same period, representing a 2 percent decrease.