Japan says Olympics must not burden medical systems
The Olympics must not be a burden on medical systems, Japan’s chief government spokesman said on Friday, amid worries that daily athlete testing will tax health resources already stressed in fighting a rebound of COVID-19 cases.
The Games will be held in a manner that makes everyone feel safe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters, responding to concerns raised by a nurses’ union that the world’s biggest sporting event will sap medical resources needed by the public.
Tokyo 2020 organisers this week issued the second edition of “playbooks” that lay out infection prevention standards for the Summer Games, which are due to start in less than three months after a one-year delay because of the pandemic.
The rules require daily testing of athletes and restrict their use of public transportation, complicating logistics in more remote locations.
The venue for surfing in the Tokyo Olympics refused to set up COVID-19 testing and treatment facilities for athletes, citing a lack of medical facilities, NHK reported on Friday.
The town of Ichinomiya, about 96 km (60 miles) east of Tokyo, had been asked to set up a testing facility by the Brazilian national team, NHK said.
Brazilian surfers, expected to be among the medals at the sport’s Olympic debut, had wanted to base themselves near the beach instead of the Olympic Village some two hours away, NHK said.
A representative of the town’s Olympic planning office denied the report when contacted by Reuters. Representatives for the Tokyo Olympics did not immediately respond when contacted for comment, and the Brazilian team could not immediately be reached.
Japan is struggling to tame a coronavirus resurgence and its immunisation drive, dependent so far on imports of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, is lagging all other wealthy nations.
Health Minister Norihisa Tamura confirmed on Friday that the first doses of Moderna Inc’s vaccine, expected to be approved in May, had arrived in Japan.
Japan has inoculated only 1.8% of its population, too little to blunt a fourth wave of cases driven by more infectious strains of the virus.
Seeking to slow the spread, Tokyo and Osaka remain under a state of emergency, set to last until May 11.
“If we don’t move forward with mass vaccination, we’ll end up with an endless loop of emergency declarations forever,” Hiroshi Mikitani, the chief executive office of e-commerce company Rakuten, told TV Asahi.
Tokyo reported 1,027 new cases on Thursday, the highest since Jan. 28 during the previous emergency declaration, and 698 on Friday.