COVID outbreak could interrupt Tokyo Olympics

Japan's recent super surge of COVID-19 infections is threatening the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games from taking place later this year.

COVID Outbreak Could Interrupt Tokyo's Olympic Games
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COVID Outbreak Could Interrupt Tokyo's Olympic Games

After the announcement of the new highly contagious strain found in Japan earlier this month, medical experts and members of the public are fearing that the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games – originally scheduled to take place this summer– might have to be cancelled.

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Current situation in Japan

With infection rates skyrocketing since the holidays and more than 11,000 new cases having been reported in the last 48 hours, Japan is quickly becoming a COVID hotspot in all of Asia. Since the upsurge, Japan has tightened COVID restrictions in Tokyo and Kanagawa with many other cities looking to follow suit now that a state of emergency has been imposed on more than half of the country's population.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has confirmed that seven other prefectures will implement stricter anti-virus measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 and save as many lives as possible. All non-resident foreign nationals would no longer be allowed to enter the Japanese territory until further notice.

What do the Japanese think?

Takeshi Niinami, chief executive of the Japanese beverage group Suntory, is unsure as to whether the Olympic Games could still be taking place by saying that:

I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to hold the Tokyo Olympics or not. But it’s a great message to the world … we should make every effort.

In a recent survey, only 16% of the Japanese public believe the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games should go on as scheduled despite the sanitary crisis. Koichi Nakano, professor in the politics department at Sophia University in Tokyo said that:

The Japanese public are already more and more inclined to oppose the hosting of the Olympics this summer, and the state of emergency reinforces the perception that it is a lost cause.

And although Japan has proven to overcome adversity, as was seen during the first wave of the pandemic, infectious disease specialist and professor at Showa University, Yoshihito NIki, is not as easily convinced that things could turn around for the better:

It’s very unlikely we’ll see cases go down after just a month. Japan has been called a success story and there’s been discussion about the so-called X factor – something that makes the Japanese more resistant to the virus – but that’s a complete fantasy.
Tokyo Olympics: What COVID rules do athletes have to follow? Tokyo Olympics: What COVID rules do athletes have to follow?