Although there have been fewer positive tests in Japan than in the US or European countries, cases have soared in the past two months that hospitals are beginning to feel overwhelmed. The country set a record on Wednesday with just over 6,000 new cases, and the next day Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in the Tokyo area, though compliance is largely voluntary. Government officials are urging bars and restaurants to close early and residents not to go on non-urgent trips. The number of new cases continued to rise on Thursday and Friday.

Earlier on Friday, Pound told the BBC that he “can’t be certain” that the Olympics would take place in July as planned, but he told the Washington Post that he was driven by the steps the Japanese government has taken to address that Contain virus was encouraged.

“They’ve certainly had an upturn, and that was right to worry them. But they took the necessary steps and took them quickly, ”Pound, a Canadian and the longest serving IOC member, told The Post. “That’s going to change. The situation is going to change in the next two weeks, four weeks. I think it’s way too early to panic at this stage. I would rate it 3 to 1 based on what we know today. “

The IOC is not expected to announce specific plans for the Olympic Games in Tokyo until spring.

Pound reiterated his hopes to The Post that Olympic athletes will be vaccinated before the Games, but only after the “absolute priorities” have been removed: “the health care workers, the people on the front lines, the old and vulnerable, those with conditions and so on, ”he said.

“And now that you’ve got those must-haves over and done with, think about a plan for nice-haves,” he said. “I said that every country has to make its own decisions, a kind of triage, whether it is based on age or in this area, according to remoteness or whatever criteria. But don’t forget about the Olympic athletes because they will be traveling to a zone where this stuff first started and they will be at risk.

“And what is important about the Olympics is that after 18 months of really hard sledding all over the world, we need good news and successful Olympics with young people from over 200 countries to be successful in the Games and for all the reasons who are good – this is good news that we all need. It’s encouragement. It is proof of resilience in the face of really difficult conditions. And we need good news. So keep them in mind when you start putting your national priorities together. “

Pound told The Post that he hoped widespread vaccinations would allow viewers to attend Olympic events in Tokyo, noting that “the Japanese have experimented with it and had some success”. More than 24,000 physically distant spectators attended the season finale of the Japanese professional football league on Monday in the new national stadium, the planned venue for the opening ceremonies. However, fans were not allowed to cheer to prevent possible transmission of the virus and under the new state of emergency, participation in sporting events and other large gatherings will be limited to 5,000 until at least February 7.

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