With less than two months left for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, many questions remain about how host nation Japan will manage the large-scale event despite public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The influx of thousands of athletes, coaches and media professionals into the country – which is currently dealing with challenges to the healthcare system it has not yet faced during the pandemic – will only complicate the situation.
The Olympic Games will be held from July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympic Games will be held from August 24 to September 5.
With sports and life looking close to returning to normal in the United States, here’s a look at the situation in Japan:
Current Coronavirus Statistics in Japan
Japan reported 4,590 new cases of COVID-19 and 76 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from World Health Organization.
In total, 12,312 people have died from the Coronavirus in Japan. The death rate from infection has risen to levels seen during the winter season and hospitals are starting to reach capacity in some parts of the country.
The state of emergency will be extended
A pandemic-related emergency is currently in effect in nine prefectures, including Tokyo. These orders went into effect on April 25 and were due to expire on May 11, but the deadline has been pushed back to May 31.
The state of emergency is expected to be extended until June 13 or June 20, according to the Japan Times and Kyodo News.
The fourth wave leads to a ‘collapse’
The “fourth wave” poses problems in Japan and can be attributed to a combination of the contagious COVID-19 variants, relaxed restrictions and slow vaccination. In Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, A hospital director told Reuters “Simply, this is a breakdown of the medical system.”
The hospitalization rate in Osaka is 14 percent, according to Reuters, while it is 37 percent in Tokyo. At some point last week, 96 percent of 348 hospital beds booked in Osaka were used for serious virus cases. However, more than 80 percent of the household is occupied, according to Kyodo News.
With doctors citing a variant from England as a factor, concerns about variants arising from various places with a high prevalence – India, for example – are a source of concern among clinicians.
“The Olympics must be stopped,” said Akira Takasu, head of the emergency department at Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital. “… this could be the cause of yet another disaster this summer.”
The US State Department advises against travel to Japan
In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department raised Japan to “Level 4 – Don’t Travel” on Monday due to COVID-19.
Almost 16% of countries They fall under this classification, but about 70% fall into “Level 3 – Travel Reconsider”.
What does that mean for the Tokyo Olympics?
A member of the Japanese media asked IOC Vice President John Coates last week whether the Tokyo Olympics would continue even under the state of emergency.
He replied, “Yes, of course.”
The decision to hold the Games rests with the International Olympic Committee, although the Games may not be popular with residents of the host country. Recent polls showed that between 60 to 80 percent of respondents disapprove of the Olympiad being held in July in light of the public health situation.
“We are moving forward perfectly,” said International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams earlier this month, before the latest extension of the state of emergency. “There was a slight extension of the state of emergency (in Japan), but we continue to plan whole games. This is the way it should be, and this is the only way for us.”
No foreign fans will be allowed in the competition venues.
Mass vaccination sites open in Tokyo, Osaka
Japan lags other developed countries in the vaccination rate, with less than five percent of the population taking a single injection and about 2 percent of the fully immunized.
The country took a step forward when the Moderna vaccine (it used only Pfizer shots) was approved by the government on Friday, According to MainichiAnd two state-run vaccination sites – one in Tokyo and one in Osaka – opened Monday. The Tokyo site can vaccinate up to 10,000 people per day and 5,000 people can receive an injection per day in Osaka.
The current goal is to vaccinate citizens 65 years of age or older by the end of July, when the Games are in full swing.
Should athletes be vaccinated?
No, but the International Olympic Committee and the USOPC both strongly encourage athletes – as well as anyone in the travel group (coaches, coaches, officials) to get vaccinated by the time of the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee said it expects more than 80 percent of the Olympic Village’s population to be vaccinated.
Contribution: Tom Shad, USA Today; News agency