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WHO urges caution on Tokyo Olympics

/ 03:07 PM July 03, 2021
Tokyo Olympics

FILE – A red traffic light lights up on a street near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building displaying banners of Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo on May 31, 2021 after the announcement that the government extended a coronavirus emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country until just a month before the Olympics. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

GENEVA –The World Health Organization, which is advising the International Olympic Committee in the run-up to the Tokyo Games opening later this month, is urging caution so as to stem the spread of the coronavirus, a senior WHO official said on Friday.

Crowds at Euro 2020 soccer stadiums and in pubs and bars in host cities are driving the current rise in COVID-19 infections in Europe, the WHO’s regional office said on Thursday.

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Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19 at its global headquarters, was asked what lessons it was drawing from the Euro 2020 tournament in order to advise the IOC and Tokyo organizers ahead of the event’s opening on July 23.

“The IOC and others have outlined their plans in taking their approach for the Olympics, and we have been engaging with them and advising them on the best use of those plans,” van Kerkhove told a Geneva news conference.

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She said the WHO was learning from Euro 2020, adding: “If the virus is present and precautions are not in place the virus will spread.”

“We urge caution. We urge everyone to take caution in what they do,” she added.

“We urge everybody to take a risk-based approach in what they do and the decisions that they make. The choices that they make and the events they attend have consequences, good and bad.”

Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program, said last month that it would discuss managing COVID-19 risks with Japanese authorities and the IOC, after organizers announced some spectators would be permitted to attend, although fans from overseas have already been banned.

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