TOKYO – A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Japan has forced 95 percent of the country’s cities and towns planning to host exchange programs with Tokyo Paralympic athletes to cancel the projects or change their formats, a Kyodo News survey showed Thursday.
Of the 101 local governments that applied for a Cabinet Secretariat-sponsored initiative aimed at promoting social inclusiveness, 36 percent have scrapped their events, while 59 percent have decided to go online or use other means of communication, according to the survey.
Only 2 percent of the local governments have decided to go ahead with their plans, according to the survey of prefectural and municipal governments conducted between late July and mid-August that received responses from 99 of them.
Of those that have canceled or altered their programs, 37 percent said they were concerned about potential adverse effects.
The so-called host towns have organized related programs such as workshops allowing participants to experience Paralympic sports and courses aimed at promoting understanding of people with disabilities.
Among those side events, only 9 percent had been canceled and 41 percent had been scaled down or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the rest were unaffected, the survey found.
The 13-day Paralympics, involving thousands of athletes from around the world, will begin Tuesday, while Tokyo remains under a COVID-19 state of emergency and public worries persist over staging the games during a pandemic.
The survey showed 47 percent of the local governments were strongly or somewhat anxious that hosting the Paralympics amid voices of opposition could hamper the momentum toward building an inclusive society.