Tokyo, Aug 24 (EFE) – The Tokyo Paralympic Games kick off Tuesday amid concerns over rising coronavirus infections in Japan, which have forced the event to be held under strict protocols similar to those of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Two weeks after the end of the Olympics, Tokyo and other regions are under a state of emergency after the Japanese government extended the measure to September 12.
Some 4,400 athletes from 162 countries will participate in the largest Paralympics event to date, which will be held without spectators.
CONCERN FOR PARALYMPIC ATHLETES
The Paralympics will be held under the same health protocols applied to the Olympic Games, where despite strict restrictions, 400 infections were reported among participants, including some 30 athletes.
Organizers, who are concerned for the safety of para-athletes, some of whom may be at greater risk from the virus due to underlying pathologies, have urged all participants to get vaccinated ahead of the event.
Nearly 90% of the para-athletes and delegations were vaccinated before traveling to Tokyo, according to the International Paralympic Committee.
Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike said Tuesday he felt confident that the health measures implemented will ensure the Paralympics are safe.
“Para-athletes have come from various parts of the world despite the pandemic and have overcome all kinds of difficulties,” said Koike.
The impact of the pandemic and restrictions on international flights have also prevented athletes from Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu from traveling to Tokyo.
Afghan para-athletes will also be absent following the Taliban takeover, as are those from North Korea, which said it was withdrawing from the Games due to health concerns.
As Japan prepares to host the Paralympics, the country is reporting over 20,000 cases per day, the highest figures since the beginning of the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
The Japanese government last Tuesday extended the state of emergency until September 12 in Tokyo and surrounding regions.
The rules mainly apply to restaurants, bars and karaokes which will have limited opening hours.
Some 40.7% of people in Japan have received the full course of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to official data.
The archipelago has recorded 1.34 million infections and over 15,700 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. EFE