The traditional torch relay preceding the Olympic Games
has been canceled as Japanese officials grapple with how to host the event in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
According to the BBC
and AFP, the relay will be replaced on Friday by private lighting ceremonies that will be streamed online to prevent crowds from forming and potentially spreading the virus.
It is the latest setback for the Tokyo
Games, which were originally scheduled to take place last year but are now set to begin on July 23 and run through August 8.
Opposition to the event has grown in the country, where a woman was recently arrested for aiming and firing a water gun
at the Olympic torch as it passed by, calling for the games to be canceled.
A poll in June found that roughly half of Japanese people
would prefer Tokyo not hold the games as planned, and the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which represents approximately 6,000 doctors, voiced its strong opposition the same month, citing a lack of spare resources.
While international spectators are not permitted to attend the games, organizers decided last month to allow up to 10,000 domestic spectators to attend in person, as long as they do not exceed 50% of a venue's capacity.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins, only about 15% of Japan's 126 million people are fully vaccinated, in an effort hampered by vaccine
shortages and medical personnel shortages.
Rising caseloads across the country are also raising concerns, and Japanese Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga said last week that depending on viral
spread, removing spectators from the equation could still be an option. Overall, Japan has suffered less loss of life from the pandemic than much of the rest of the world; less than 15,000 people have died of COVID-19
there, and the total case count remains a mystery