Asia

Coronavirus: Japanese sumo wrestler dies at 28

In this picture taken on August 28, 2019, sumo wrestlers try to push each other out of the ring Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption File photo of sumo wrestlers

A 28-year-old Japanese sumo wrestler infected with the virus has died, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) has announced, the first in the sport to fall victim to the virus.

Shobushi, whose real name is Kiyotaka Suetake, died from multiple organ failure caused by the virus.

He had been the first sumo wrestler to test positive for the virus on 10 April, said Kyodo News.

His condition quickly worsened and he entered intensive care nine days later.

"I can only imagine how hard it must have been, battling illness for over a month, but like a wrestler he endured it bravely and fought the disease until the end," JSA Chairman Hakkaku told Kyodo News.

"I just want him to rest peacefully now."

According to a report by Yomiuri News, around 1,000 members of the JSA will have to undergo a virus antibody test - the first large-scale testing event to be held in the Japanese sporting world.

Last month, the JSA announced that a stablemaster and five other sumo wrestlers had tested positive for the virus.

'A wonderful young wrestler'

Shobushi first suffered from a 38C fever on 4 April.

His stablemasters - highly respected sumo coaches - have said they initially struggled to get through to the public health office on the phone, or to get a hospital to treat him.

He was eventually admitted to hospital in Tokyo on 8 April, after his fever would not subside and he started coughing blood. A virus test came back negative.

The next day, his condition worsened and he was transferred to another hospital.

On 10 April, he finally tested positive for the virus. Nine days after this, his condition deteriorated and he was brought into intensive care.

On Wednesday, the 28-year-old died in hospital at midnight. It is not known if he suffered from any underlying health conditions.

According to Yomiuri quoting the health ministry, Shobushi is likely the first person in their 20s to have died from the virus in Japan. A large majority of virus victims in Japan are above age of 50 .

Shobushi, who made his professional debut in 2007, ranked 11th in the sport's fourth-tier division, known as Sandanme.

Tributes have now poured in for the young wrestler.

"He was a wonderful young wrestler. Rest in peace," said one commenter on Twitter.

We must not forget that no matter how young or strong you are, you could die from the coronavirus," another said.

Another questioned whether or not he might have survived if he had got help quicker.

A Reuters report earlier this week found that more than 90% of hospital beds secured for Covid-19 in Tokyo had already been occupied. It quoted Japan's Health Ministry as saying that 1,832 beds were already full, out of a maximum 2,000 beds.

Japan has recorded 15,968 virus cases and 657 deaths.

Doctors in Japan had earlier last month warned the medical system could collapse amid a new wave of cases.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRupert Wingfield-Hayes sees how one Japanese hospital is dealing with coronavirus

More on this story