Tokyo marathon is held with just elite runners amid coronavirus fears

Japan’s Tokyo marathon is held with just elite runners amid coronavirus fears – raising concerns this Summer’s Olympics could be held there behind closed doors

  • Japan has 200 coronavirus cases so far with significant cluster in the rural north
  • 10 people have died from the disease, including 5 Diamond Princess passengers
  • Race expected to have 38,000 participants but only 200 allowed to compete

Tokyo marathon was limited to elite runners only in a bid to combat the spread of deadly coronavirus in Japan.

Japan has had 200 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, excluding the almost 700 people who fell ill on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with a significant cluster in the rural north.

Ten people have died from the disease in Japan, including five who were former passengers of the ship.  

Tokyo marathon (pictured) was limited to elite runners only in a bid to combat the spread of deadly coronavirus in Japan

Ethiopian Birhanu Legese soared to victory after crossing the finish line with a time of two hours, four minutes and 15 seconds

Some spectators lined the streets of the Japanese capital but there were far fewer people watching than in past years

Today’s race in Japan’s capital – which doubles up as an Olympic trial for Japanese marathon runners – was expected to have 38,000 participants but only 200 elite runners were allowed to compete following concerns over the outbreak of the virus.

Ethiopian Birhanu Legese soared to victory after crossing the finish line with a time of two hours, four minutes and 15 seconds – 34 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Bashir Abdi.

The Tokyo marathon is one of the biggest sporting events to be affected by the coronavirus.

Today’s race in Japan’s capital doubles up as an Olympic trial for Japanese marathon runners. Pictured: Police officers wearing face masks at the marathon

Today’s race was expected to have 38,000 participants but only 200 elite runners were allowed to compete. Pictured: Legese is helped by marathon staff wearing protective masks

Some spectators lined the streets of the Japanese capital but there were far fewer people watching than the one million who showed up last year.

With Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympics, Japan has taken extensive steps in a bid to halt the spread of the outbreak but some still fear that the Games will be held behind closed doors. 

shoemaker Hiroshi Enomoto, one of the fistful of spectators cheering on the runners in the downtown area of Asakusa, said: ‘There are maybe 20 per cent of the number of people who came to see the race last year. Normally, it’s so packed you can barely breathe.’

‘If the Olympics look like this, it’s going to be a sad sight.’

The Olympic marathon itself has been moved to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido because of worries over Tokyo’s scorching summer heat, but Enomoto, 68, and others wondered whether this weekend’s crowdless events were a harbinger of things to come.

Tokyo organizers and the IOC have repeatedly said the Tokyo Games will go ahead as scheduled and that they are following the advice of the World Health Organization. 

But International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said the Games would have to be cancelled should the outbreak become a pandemic, the BBC reports. 

The Olympics, which start on July 24, are set to gather 11,000 athletes in Tokyo, followed by the Paralympics beginning Aug. 25 with 4,000 athletes. 

Tokyo Disneyland has been shut and will remain closed until at least March 15.

It comes after Disney theme parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai were also shuttered in early January.

With Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympics, Japan has taken extensive steps in a bid to halt the spread of the outbreak. Pictured: Officials wear masks at the marathon today

Japan has had 200 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, excluding the almost 700 people who fell ill on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with a significant cluster in the rural north. Pictured: Runners during the race today

Disney said it expects to lose around $280million from a two-month closure of both parks. It is unclear when they will reopen .

People in the northern Hokkaido province have been told to stay home this weekend to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Regional governor Naomichi Suzuki issued the pleas after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for all schools in the country to close for a month.

Abe has also asked organisers to consider cancelling or postponing major gatherings, with a range of events from football matches to concerts already cancelled or rescheduled in recent days.

The Tokyo marathon is one of the biggest sporting events to be affected by the coronavirus

Abe told parliament: ‘We have to prevent emergence of a new cluster of patients among children.

‘We made this decision because we regard it as our political responsibility.’

The government cannot order schools to shut – a power that belongs to local education boards – and regional leaders voiced their surprise and mixed reactions at the abrupt announcement.

‘This is shocking news,’ Chiba city mayor Toshihito Kumagai posted on Twitter, saying a blanket schools closure could put pressure on working parents including medical and emergency professionals.

But some experts have recommended closures, with a key member of a government panel earlier saying smaller-scale school closures had helped contain a flu outbreak in 2009. 

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