TOKYO—Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga defended his decision to hold the Tokyo Olympics during a pandemic, saying Japan has a fraction of the Covid-19 cases of Western countries and is more disciplined in preventing infections.
With critics calling the Games a danger to Japan and the world, Mr. Suga spoke in an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal three days before the Summer Games opening ceremony, which he decided earlier this month would take place before an empty stadium.
He cited the example of the U.K., which recently held the Wimbledon tennis tournament and soccer matches with packed stadiums of maskless fans despite tens of thousands of new infections every day.
“If you compare our number of infections to countries abroad, we have fewer by a whole order of magnitude,” he said. “We’ve got vaccinations advancing, we’re taking tough steps to prevent infections, and so my judgment is we’re in the right place and we’re ready to go.”
Mask-wearing remains nearly universal in public in Japan, which Mr. Suga said was crucial to protecting the nation while more than 50,000 people, including athletes, visit for the Olympics. “If you talk with your mask off, that’s when it’s going to spread the fastest. I appreciate that people in Japan are helping out by being thorough about this.”