The coronavirus outbreak has swept through China in recent weeks and is alarming with the 2020 Olympics less than six months away. On Wednesday, Tokyo Olympics organizers revealed that they are extremely concerned with the outbreak happening so close to the opening ceremony.
"I am seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games," chief executive officer Toshiro Muto said during a meeting with the International Paralympic Committee. "I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible."
In addition, Saburo Kawabuchi, the mayor of the Athletes Village where the Olympians will stay, shared his concern for holding the 2020 Olympics in the wake of the deadly virus.
"I truly hope that the infectious disease will die down somehow so that we will be able to operate the Paralympics and Olympics smoothly," Kawabuchi said. "In the worst case -- we will do our utmost for the athletes so that they will be able to concentrate on performing their best."
Despite the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Olympic organizersin Tokyo.
"Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement last week after meeting with the World Health Organization. "It is normal practice for the IOC to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO."
According to CBS News, the death toll in China is at least 492 and there have been 24,000 cases of the respiratory virus in the country. The virus has not caused any deaths in Japan, according to the Associated Press.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illnesses as minor as a cold, or as serious as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can cause symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. But while some patients only show mild symptoms and recover, others have developed life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia, CBS News reports.
Some Olympic qualifying events have already been postponed in the wake of the coronavirus. Last week, the World Athletics governing body announced that the World Athletics Indoor Championships were being moved to 2021. The Indoor Championships were originally scheduled to take place in Nanjing in mid-March.
In addition, the first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup races were canceled due to the coronavirus. The races were originally scheduled for Feb. 15 and 16. The men's downhill and super-G races were scheduled to take place during the two-day period.