City officials in Sapporo have asked the Central Government for extra help amid rising coronavirus cases but are going ahead with tomorrow’s Tokyo 2020 rehearsal event, the Hokkaido-Sapporo Marathon Festival 2021, despite local criticism.
Sapporo, due to host the marathon and race walking events at the Games, has also closed public facilities and cancelled other events for the remainder of the Golden Week holidays to prevent the health care system from collapsing, Asahi Shimbun reports.
Sapporo confirmed a record 246 new infection cases on May 2, as well as five deaths.
It was the first time the daily infection tally has exceeded 200 in the city.
The infection count for May 3, a national holiday, was 88.
Officials have agreed to ask the Central Government for pre-emergency "manbo" measures for the city to combat the spike in infections.
Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto said: "Infections are rapidly spreading, and we are in a critical situation.
"Please refrain as much as possible from going outdoors.
"Please try as hard as possible not to come to Sapporo."
However, hundreds of participants are expected to enter Sapporo for the pre-Olympic event, even though the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and local officials have banned 2,500 citizens from taking part.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have said the rehearsal event is "extremely important" in testing security and COVID-19 countermeasures.
But the authorities are encountering considerable local opposition.
Shuji Miura, a 55-year-old manager of a cafe located along the route, told Asahi Shumbun he has complied with the Hokkaido Government’s requests for eateries in Sapporo to close by 9pm from April 27 to May 11.
"We are doing what we can to contain the coronavirus," he said.
"But it will be completely useless if they hold the rehearsal event before we see any result."
A 47-year-old woman who runs a confectionery shop in Sapporo’s Susukino district said: "I can’t come up with any good reason why they have to push it through when the infection numbers are rising this much."