PM suggests Olympics can ‘take place safely’ as Japan extends Covid crackdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested the Olympic Games “can take place safely” in Japan this summer, according to No 10, despite doubts over whether spectators can attend.

Japan has extended a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by 20 days, with infections still not slowing, as it prepares to host the Olympics in just over 50 days.

The state of emergency in the host capital was scheduled to end on Monday, but hospitals in some areas are still overflowing with Covid-19 patients and serious cases have recently hit new highs.

Olympic organisers must decide at around the end of the 20 days whether to allow any domestic fans at all, after overseas spectators were banned months ago.

Despite the extended measures, Mr Johnson appeared to offer his Japanese counterpart a vote of confidence from the UK during a phone call on Friday.

The 2020 Games have already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, but the push to deliver on holding them in Tokyo has led to protests in Japan.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this morning ahead of the UK’s G7 summit next month.

“The Prime Minister expressed his support for the Tokyo Olympics, and noted Japan’s efforts to ensure the Games can take place safely.”

The two leaders also discussed the debut deployment of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to Japan on its trip through the Pacific.

The voyage comes after the UK Government’s Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy decided that Britain should “tilt” its focus towards the Indo-Pacific region, seen as a response to the growing influence of China on the world stage.

The Prime Minister visited HMS Queen Elizabeth before its deployment from Portsmouth last week
The Prime Minister visited HMS Queen Elizabeth before its deployment from Portsmouth last week (Leon Neal/PA)

“The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Suga reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the UK-Japan relationship and looked forward to the UK’s Carrier Strike Group visiting Japan later this year,” No 10 said.

“The Prime Minister thanked Prime Minister Suga for his support for the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“They looked forward to seeing each other in Cornwall in two weeks’ time.”

Mr Johnson, speaking after visiting the flagship vessel in Portsmouth before it set sail last week, denied that the deployment is “confrontational”.

He said: “One of the things we’ll be doing clearly is showing to our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea and, in a confident but not a confrontational way, we will be vindicating that point.”

During their phone call, the two men set out their joint aims for the G7 gathering in Carbis Bay, including their commitment to make progress on beating coronavirus globally, tackling climate change, preserving biodiversity and nature, and increasing girls’ access to education around the world.

Mr Johnson also spoke with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on the telephone on Friday, No 10 said.

They discussed “strengthening” the relationship between the two countries, which included agreeing a free trade deal and “through UK accession to the CPTPP”.