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World's oldest person pulls out of role in Olympic torch relay over Covid-19 concerns

The world's oldest person, a 118-year-old Japanese woman, has decided not to take part in the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus fears.

The celebration cauldron is seen lit on the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. Source: Associated Press

Kane Tanaka was slated to be one of the relay participants in Fukuoka in southern Japan, which will start on May 11.

While Tanaka's family was to push her in a wheelchair for most of her 100 metre or so leg, she was said to be determined to walk the final few steps before passing the torch to the next runner.

However, health concerns related to COVID-19 will prevent Tanaka's involvement.

"We received an email from her family which said she wanted to withdraw from the relay as she and her family were concerned about spreading the virus at the nursing home," an official at her nursing home said on Wednesday.

Record holders for the oldest Olympic torchbearers are Aida Gemanque of Brazil, who lit the torch at the 2016 Rio Games aged 106, and table tennis player Alexander Kaptarenko, who ran with the torch at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games at 101 years old.

The Olympic torch relay in Japan, which commenced in March, has been affected by a coronavirus outbreak.

Six people who helped with the torch relay were diagnosed with COVID-19, the Games organisers said on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases involved in the event to eight.

Some celebrities who were due to take part have withdrawn from the relay due to safety reasons amid the pandemic.

Japan late last month declared a COVID-19 state of emergency for the major population centres including Tokyo and Osaka to curb the resurgence of infections.

On Wednesday a Yomiuri Newspaper report claimed the Japanese government is considering extending the measures beyond May 11.

Doing so would likely fan persistent concerns about whether the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to begin on July 23, can proceed as planned.