TOKYO: The United States’ track and field team has cancelled its pre-Olympics training camp in Japan out of concerns for safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities said on Wednesday, raising more questions about the holding of the Games.

The team was set to train in Chiba, the prefecture neighbouring Tokyo, leading up to the summer Games, but cancelled “out of concerns for their athletes safety”, according to a statement from the Chiba administration. There was no immediate comment from USA Track and Field.

“It is a shame they have decided to cancel, but I believe they made the best decision possible in the current situation,” Chiba governor Toshihito Kumagai said.

With less than three months to go before the Games begin on July 23, Japan is battling a surge in coronavirus infections, and a majority of the population wants them cancelled or postponed for a second time.

“To be honest, we are conflicted every day over what the best course of action is.” To forestall a virus outbreak during the event, Japan is preparing to offer vaccinations to about 2,500 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and support staff, using donated shots.

However, just 2.6% of the population has been vaccinated, and reports last month of priority for athletes spurred criticism on social media amid public anger over the slow pace of the inoculation campaign.

“Our officials are saying we’ll make sure we don’t cause trouble for the overall population,” said Miho Kuroda of the Japan Paralympic Committee.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said vaccinations could start as early as June, but officials said the timing and details, such as who would give the inoculations, remain unclear.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2021

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