A spike in coronavirus cases in Tokyo has raised fresh fears about the Olympics in the summer.
Japan’s capital reported a daily record of 1,337 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday and the nationwide figure was 4,515.
Local and government officials have now warned that a state of emergency might be needed to tackle the spread of the disease — just 203 days before the rescheduled Olympics are due to start.
Japan has already banned all non-resident foreigners from entering the country until January 31. A travel exemption for elite athletes and coaches has also been scrapped for countries with the new Covid variant, such as the United Kingdom.
Olympic organisers still insist the Games will take place as planned in the summer in front of spectators, including overseas visitors.
But it emerged this week that athletes may face a 14-day quarantine period when they arrive in the country in July — something which the International Olympic Committee had previously ruled out.
Such measures could see a number of top stars pull out of the Games, including cyclists, as the Tour de France is scheduled to end just six days before the Olympic road race.
Belgian rider Greg van Avermaet, the Rio 2016 road race champion, said: ‘If the riders have to choose between the Tour and the Games, you will not have the strongest field in Tokyo. A solution has to be found.
‘The commercial value of the Tour is very great. The Olympic Games are not raced in a team jersey, but it is still the team that pay us.’