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On-duty cop is first Covid-19 case at Olympic torch relay

A cop at pre-Olympic event is diagnosed with Covid as Japan goes on high alert

Tokyo Olympics organisers reported the first infection from the nationwide torch relay yesterday - a police officer involved with the event - as the pandemic continues to play havoc with the postponed Games.

Organisers said a male officer in his 30s, who was on duty when the relay took place in Kagawa prefecture on the western island of Shikoku, had tested positive for Covid-19.

The unnamed man was guiding traffic in the town of Naoshima last Saturday and came down with a fever on Sunday, the Asahi newspaper reported, citing organisers and prefectural police.

He wore a mask and had no contact with runners, the report added.

Relay organisers pledged to work with medical authorities to "take the precautions needed to put on a safe and secure torch relay".

Public support for the Games has waned amid concern the event will cause more Covid-19 infections, now battering the country in a fourth wave.

Japan's government is planning to declare a state of emergency, the third in the past year, in densely populated Tokyo and three other prefectures this week, following a resurgence of new virus infections.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters the government will formally declare the state of emergency after a meeting with experts scheduled for today.

While he did not specify the length of the state of emergency, public broadcaster NHK said the government is considering imposing the curbs from Sunday to May 11.

The torch relay, which has already been forced off public roads in some areas over fears it will spread the virus, could see more changes.

The Asahi daily reported that the historic city of Kyoto may suggest holding the relay inside the city's Nijo Castle - a Unesco world heritage site.

The torch was carried around a closed course at a park in nearby Osaka last week, with the general public kept away.

Okinawa in southern Japan and Matsuyama city in the west of the country have also scrapped the public torch relay over rising Covid-19 cases.

Organisers insist the relay, which involves about 10,000 runners passing through all 47 prefectures, can be held safely under strict guidelines.

They have warned that parts of the relay, which got underway on March 25, could be suspended if too many spectators gather in one place.

PROTESTS BANNED

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee said athletes will be banned from protesting on podiums and the field of play at the Tokyo Olympics and Beijing Winter Games after recommendations from the athletes' commission.

Any repeat of Tommie Smith and John Carlos' black power salute at the Mexico 1968 Games, one of the most enduring Olympic images, could now face punishment. - AFP, REUTERS

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