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The Tokyo Olympics could create a new coronavirus strain if the games go on this summer, top doctor says

Protesters hold a 'No Olympics' banner during a protest against the Tokyo Olympics on May 9, 2021 in Tokyo.

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The head of a Japanese doctors' union has warned that this summer's Tokyo Games could create a new coronavirus strain if the games go ahead.

Naoto Ueyama of the Japan Doctors Union told a news conference on Thursday, according to Reuters: "All of the different mutant strains of the virus which exist in different places will be concentrated and gathering here in Tokyo. We cannot deny the possibility of even a new strain of the virus potentially emerging."

He continued: "If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean a Tokyo Olympic strain of the virus being named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something which would be the target of criticism, even for 100 years."

When the coronavirus runs rampant in an area, new strains — or variants that behave differently from previous ones — are more likely to be created, as Insider's Aylin Woodward reported. And the more people a virus infects, the more chances it has to mutate into a new variant.

Japan and Olympic organizers have pledged that the event will be safe and have barred international spectators.

But a large number of Japanese people and doctors in the country have called for the games to be postponed or canceled.

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