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Public support for the government of Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has slumped to an all-time low, despite evidence that most people support the decision to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics during the coronavirus pandemic.
Suga had been hoping to bask in the afterglow of the Games, which ended on Sunday, but support for his cabinet has dipped below 30% for the first time since he became prime minister last September, largely over its response to a recent surge in infections.
Approval for the cabinet dropped to 28% according to a poll by the Asahi Shimbun, down three percentage points from the middle of last month, while 56% said the decision to host the Games, in which Japan won a record 58 medals, had been the right one.
But the results suggest Suga’s gamble on a “safe and secure” Olympics has not paid off, amid a surge in Covid-19 infections and renewed pressure on hospitals. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had “no faith” in his approach to the pandemic.
While there is no evidence that athletes, officials and tens of thousands of other Olympic-related visitors were directly responsible for the rise in cases, experts say people were less vigilant about anti-virus measures during the 16 days of sport in the capital.
Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo 2020 delivery officer, said the positivity rate among athletes and Olympic-related visitors was 0.02% – proof, he added, that the Games had been held safely.
But over the same period, infections in Japan rose by 170,000, with Tokyo reporting record daily cases.
Nobuhiko Okabe, a public health expert who advised the government on infection controls during the Games, said the “party-like mood” had had an “indirect impact” on the surge in cases. “The fact that people’s defences are down poses a risk,” he said, according to the Asahi.