Japan will proceed with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite concerns raised by Japanese health officials and others from around the world who worry about the outcome of such an enormous global event while the pandemic is still raging there.
The Games have been postponed once already in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“It’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this,” said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s senior adviser on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Omi did not say outright that the games should be cancelled, but strongly believes that they pose a risk of elevated infection rates in Japan.
Pandemic still surging in Japan
Japan went into lockdown at the beginning of May due to a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases. The country was experiencing 6,000 new cases every day, as opposed to the 1,000 daily coronavirus cases that had been diagnosed per day back in early March, according to research taken from a New York Times database.
Japan also lags far behind almost all other developed nations in its effort to vaccinate citizens. As of June 2, only 3.0% of all Japanese citizens were fully vaccinated, with just 8.7% having received one shot, according to figures from the coronavirus tracking website Ourworldindata.org.
The Japan Times admitted earlier in April that the situation was “grim,” with a paltry 1% of Japanese vaccinated, as opposed to the stellar figures coming out of the UK, Israel and the United States, where at least half of the populace has had at least one dose of a coronavirus inoculation by the time.
In Japan, which has no domestic coronavirus vaccine, the nationwide vaccination of all medical personnel began way back in February. By now, the government planned that senior citizens — who make up a substantial percentage of the population — would start to receive the vaccine.
The U.S.-based Pfizer and Moderna firms, along with UK-based AstraZeneca, were to be the only pharmaceutical companies providing the vaccine to Japan — but the Moderna shot is still undergoing tests in Japan and it is unknown when it might be approved for use.
As of March 1 there were only 1,400 inoculation boxes, representing 1.35 million to 1.6 million shots, in the entire country. “At this rate,” one doctor told Playboy in an interview, “it will take 16 years to get everyone fully vaccinated.”
Japan’s grand plan to have 36 million people fully vaccinated by the end of June is “Impossible,” according to an unnamed Japanese medical journalist also interviewed for the Playboy article.
Japan insists that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics must be held
Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic’s organizing committee, has insisted that the Games be held despite Japan’s hectic vaccination effort and Shigeru Omi’s warning. Omi has also stated that “If we are going to hold the Games under these circumstances … then I think it’s the Olympic organisers’ responsibility to downsize the scale of the event and strengthen coronavirus control measures as much as possible.”
The Games have attempted to make such efforts by banning overseas fans from attending.
Japan won’t require Olympic participants to be vaccinated, but the IOC is encouraging inoculations and has secured Chinese-made doses for athletes in countries without access to them.
Tens of thousands of athletes and other Olympic participants arriving from overseas will be able to skip quarantine, and are not required to show proof of vaccination.