Japan’s government plans to hold the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year without making vaccination against coronavirus a condition of participation.
“We are considering comprehensive measures to hold a safe and secure games, even without making vaccines a condition,” government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Tuesday.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has already on several occasions ruled out making vaccination compulsory for athletes.
Organisers however are pushing for as many athletes and others who travel to Tokyo to be vaccinated as possible.
Some 11,000 athletes from around the world are due to take part, plus thousands of officials and media.
The question of whether spectators will be allowed is still open.
Japan plans to start vaccinating its population at the end of February, according to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government.
This will be around two months later than some western nations, as Japan wants to carry out testing domestically first.
The campaign will start with medical personnel. Those aged 65 or older are next in line, possibly at the end of March. After that, vaccines will be extended to people with pre-existing conditions and those who care for the elderly.
Japan’s government has put in place a state of emergency for the greater Tokyo area and other prefectures as coronavirus infection numbers continue to pass new record highs.
Japan has recorded more than 330,000 infections so far and some 4,500 deaths but the government and the IOC have said Games preparations are continuing as planned.
But according to surveys some 80 per cent of the Japanese believe the Games will be either postponed again or cancelled.
And the deputy chairman of the London 2012 organising committee on Tuesday also doubted that the Games could take place.
“Sitting here and looking at the pandemic around the world … it looks unlikely,” Sir Keith Mills told BBC radio.
“If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I’m sure they have plans for a cancellation.”
The Tokyo Olympics were postponed last year and rescheduled for July 23-August 8.