WHO says not advising on whether to hold Tokyo Olympics

Updated 15 Feb 2020

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A BOTTLE of hand sanitizer is placed next to lion masks at an information centre in Yokohama’s Chinatown, near Tokyo. A top Olympic official made clear on Friday the 2020 Games in Tokyo will not be cancelled despite the virus that has spread from China. —AP
A BOTTLE of hand sanitizer is placed next to lion masks at an information centre in Yokohama’s Chinatown, near Tokyo. A top Olympic official made clear on Friday the 2020 Games in Tokyo will not be cancelled despite the virus that has spread from China. —AP

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said it was not advising on whether or not to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics this year amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

But Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said the UN agency could offer technical advice on how to handle possible risks around the event.

“We have not offered advice to the IOC for the Olympics one way or the other. And neither would we, it’s not the role of WHO to call off or not call off any event,” Ryan said at a regular press conference in Geneva.

“It’s the decision of hosting countries and the organising agencies to make that decision,” he said.

The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) coordination commission earlier on Friday insisted there was no danger of Tokyo 2020 being cancelled or moved.

“The advice we have received from the World Health Organisation is that there is no case for a contingency plan to cancel or move the Games,” John Coates told reporters after a project review meeting.

Ryan explained that the UN health agency regularly offered technical advice to countries hosting all kinds of mass gatherings, such as sporting events or religious festivals.

“At this stage, there has been no specific discussion or no specific decision made regarding any of those mass events in the coming months.

“But we stand ready to offer both member states hosting events and organisations organising events to offer them the best mechanism and risk assessment approaches that we have,” he said.

The COVID-19 outbreak has killed nearly 1,400 people and infected around 64,000 -- most of them in China.

Two dozen countries, including Japan, have confirmed cases of the disease, which the WHO has declared a global health emergency.

Tokyo organisers have slammed “fake news” and scare-mongering over the coronavirus outbreak for causing panic ahead of the Games, which open on July 24.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020