Paralympics to be held without fans as Covid cases rise in Tokyo


he Paralympics in Tokyo will take place almost entirely behind closed doors because of coronavirus concerns, organisers confirmed on Monday.

Fans were barred from attending the majority of events at the Olympics in the city earlier this summer, though some venues in prefectures beyond Tokyo, such as the Izu Velodrome, were able to host a number of supporters.

This time, all fans will be barred except the possibility of some children attending a few unspecified events.

Organisers have also asked the public not to come out to view road events, after masses of fans lined the streets for events such as the marathon, triathlon and cycling road races at the Olympics.

The decision was announced after a meeting with International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa.

The Paralympics open on August 24 with about 4,400 athletes, a far smaller event than the Olympics with 11,000 athletes. But the Paralympics come as new infections have accelerated in Tokyo, which may expose an athlete population that is more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Parsons, speaking at a news conference, said there was no room for complacency in the wake of the Olympics.

“In light of the current case numbers in Tokyo and wider Japan, everyone attending these games must be vigilant,” Parsons said.

New infections in Tokyo tripled during the 17 days of the Olympics, although medical experts said the surge was not directly linked the Tokyo Games. Rather, experts suggested an indirect effect as the public was distracted and lulled into a false sense of security that staging the Games offered.

With the situation growing worse, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday said a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas will be extended until September 12. The state of emergency has been in force since July 12 and was to end later this month. The Paralympics end on September 5.

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