Tokyo Paralympic organizers plan to allow 130K schoolchildren as fans despite rise in COVID-19 cases

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Organizers for the Tokyo Paralympic Games want to allow tens of thousands of schoolchildren to attend the event even as the coronavirus Delta variant continues to spread. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said he wants to move forward with allowing schoolchildren at the Paralympics as long as there is support from parents and schools, the Associated Press reported Sunday. It would include between 130,000-140,000 children, per the report, many of whom are unable to be vaccinated because of age. 

The Paralympics begin Tuesday and go through Sept. 5. Approximately 4,400 athletes are expected to participate from 160 countries and territories. Fans, including schoolchildren, were not allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month. The stands were largely made up of competitors, volunteers and organizers. 

A wheelchair rugby ball is seen during a training session between Denmark and Britain at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on August 22, 2021. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)
A wheelchair rugby ball is seen during a training session between Denmark and Britain at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on August 22, 2021. (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Tokyo organizers want schoolchildren to see Paralympics

The Tokyo organizing committee and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are pushing for students to attend the games because they say it's important that young citizens see athletes with disabilities. It "could change attitudes in a relatively conservative society like Japan," the Associated Press reported. 

"This generation is the one that will sustain our society in the future, and so we are absolutely passionate about providing this opportunity," Tokyo organizing committee spokesman Masa Takaya said Sunday, via the AP. 

IPC president Andrew Parsons is also in favor of the plan as long as it's done in a safe way. 

COVID-19 surges in Tokyo 

The number of COVID-19 cases is surging in Tokyo, where 5,074 new cases were reported Saturday. It was the fourth consecutive day the city has had at least 5,000 new cases, a first during the pandemic. On Sunday, 4,392 new cases were reported. Its rate of positive tests is higher than 20%. The benchmark of concern has been 5%.

Experts said the spread of the coronavirus has reached "disaster levels," the Japan Times reported, and they are warning many cases have gone undetected. Numbers have gone up since the Olympics began on July 23, but the Games were held in a quasi-bubble and were not blamed for the uptick. 

Dr. Shigeru Omi said the COVID-19 situation "compared to before the Olympics is significantly worse" at a parliamentary session earlier this week in Japan. 

Cities and countries around the world are experiencing rises in numbers because of the Delta variant. About 40% of Tokyo is fully vaccinated, per the AP, an increase since the weeks ahead of the Games. Japan's vaccination program was slow to roll out. 

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