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Homeland Security

Tokyo Olympics Chief Says Games Will Go On Despite Coronavirus

By VOA News February 02, 2021

The head of the Tokyo Olympics expressed confidence Tuesday the event will go forward this year despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said discussions should be about how and not whether the Olympics will happen.

"We will hold the Olympics, regardless of how the coronavirus [situation] looks," Mori said.

The Summer Games were originally scheduled to begin in July 2020, but organizers postponed the event for one year. The new start date is July 23.

Adding to doubts about whether it would be possible to stage the games are recent lockdowns initiated in a number of countries. Large parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency because of the virus.

Malaysia is among those extending lockdowns to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Tuesday the restrictions would be extended until February 18.

"The Health Ministry has confirmed that daily cases in all states are still showing a rising trend... the sporadic spread in the community is also high," Ismail Sabri said in a televised address.

In Britain, fears of the spread of coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa have prompted a mass door-to-door testing campaign.

The effort involves eight areas of the country where people will be tested whether they have symptoms or not. In all, about 80,000 people were to be tested.

Britain has been one of the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, with more than 3.8 million confirmed cases and 106,000 deaths.

'A detective story'

A team of World Health Organization scientists investigating the source of the coronavirus, that first emerged in China's Hubei province in late 2019, visited a provincial disease control center Monday that was key in the early management of the outbreak.

China did not release any details about the team's visit to the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control. Team member Peter Daszak, however, told reporters it had been a "really good meeting, really important."

Since the WHO team's arrival last month, the scientists have also visited the Huanan Seafood Market that was linked to a cluster of COVID-19 cases and at least one of the hospitals in Wuhan that treated some of the first patients. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The scientists want to know where the virus originated, in what animal and how it made its way into humans — something that could take years to figure out.

"We continue to ask the questions, we continue to push for more data. … It's a detective story," Mike Ryan, top emergency WHO official, told a Geneva news conference Monday.

Maria Van Kerkhove, an American epidemiologist and technical lead on COVID-19 at WHO, said at the news conference that the team is focusing on "the early cases" and "are having very good discussions around that" with their Chinese counterparts.

The outbreak in China led to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said Monday there are more than 103 million global COVID-19 infections and more than 2.2 million people have died.

Cases have fallen worldwide for three consecutive weeks. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the decline "encouraging news" but warned, "We have been here before."

Speaking Monday at the news conference, Tedros said, "Over the past year, there have been moments in almost all countries when cases declined and governments opened up too quickly, and individuals let down their guard, only for the virus to come roaring back."

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