Tokyo Marathon Limits Participants to Elite Runners Over Coronavirus

February 17, 2020 Updated: February 17, 2020
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Tokyo Marathon organizers are greatly reducing the number of participants in the annual event in an effort to prevent the spread of Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19.

In an announcement on Monday, organizers said they were limiting the marathon for elite and wheelchair elite participants only.

“We have been preparing for the Tokyo Marathon 2020 (Sunday, March 1) while implementing preventive safety measures, however, now that case of COVID-19 has been confirmed within Tokyo, we cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated,” the organizers said in a statement.

About 38,000 participants were scheduled to take part in the Tokyo Marathon, one of the six World Marathon Majors, which would be held on March 1, according to the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper.

Other public events in Japan have also been canceled out of fear that it could worsen the spread of the virus, including a public birthday event for Japanese royal leader Naruhito, which was scheduled to be held on Feb. 23.

Naruhito, his wife Masako, and family were originally going to greet the pubic three times from a balcony of the Imperial Palace.

“We made the decision to cancel the public event at the palace, which is attended every year by many people in close proximity, after considering the risk of the virus spreading,” said Kenji Ikeda, vice grand steward at a press conference, reported Kyodo News.

The announcements come days after Japanese authorities confirmed on Feb. 13 the first death in the country from the virus that is believed to have originated in China.

The victim, a Japanese woman in her 80s, tested positive for the virus after her death, Heath Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference in Kyodo, according to The Japan Times.

Kato told reporters that the woman was being treated at a hospital near Tokyo since early February after showing symptoms of the new virus.

Meanwhile, Japanese health authorities said on Monday that 99 more people have tested positive for the virus on cruise ship Diamond Princess, which is docked in Japan. This brings the total known cases of coronavirus on the ship to 454, after 1,723 passengers and crew members were tested.

The ship, which has been quarantined in Japan since Feb. 4, is currently docked in Yokohama. The quarantine is due to end on Feb. 19.

Zachary Stieber, Frank Fang, Melanie Sun, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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