Regardless of the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and a poor vaccination rate, Japan's government has confirmed that the 2021 Summer Olympics will be held. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Japan to declare its third official state of emergency.
Tokyo Olympic Games will be held despite worsening COVID-19 cases in Japan
On Thursday, the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan surpassed 6,800. A hasty effort to re-start the economy, weak lockdowns, and pandemic exhaustion have all been blamed for the country's fourth outbreak of COVID-19 infections.
Just one vaccine has been authorized so far, and limits on who can administer vaccines have also hindered vaccinations. As a result, only about 3 percent of the population has received the COVID-19 vaccine.
This week, a publisher released full-page advertisements in three major newspapers criticizing Japan's poor vaccine rollout, comparing it to arming people with sticks during WWII. According to economist Sayuri Shirai of Tokyo's Keio University, fears are rampant that the Tokyo Olympics Games would further strain Japan's medical system and unleash a super-spreader case.
"We were very concerned about the rising number of infected people. And a lot of hospitals are under a lot of pressure... As a result, many people are concerned about the Tokyo Olympics Games," Lucy Craft of CBS News spoke with Shirai. Only nine weeks before the opening ceremony, the Olympic torch is slowly making its way across Japan.
Due to the outbreak of infections, the USA Track & Field team canceled a training camp for about 120 athletes in Chiba, east of Tokyo. Some of the world's best athletes also expressed their reservations, including tennis star Naomi Osaka, who said they are not worth putting people's lives in danger while supporting the games.
"Of course, I want the Olympics to continue because I'm an athlete," she said. "However, if it's putting lives at risk and making people uncomfortable, then there could surely be a discussion," she said, as per CBS News. Elle Purrier, an Olympic candidate and the current indoor mile record holder, said the Games' setbacks would not deter her from training for the July 23 event.
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Why Japan Will Not cancel the Tokyo Olympics Games?
The Tokyo Olympics are less than two months ahead, and calls to cancel them in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming louder. In Japan, things are not looking great. As coronavirus cases continue to climb, a state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo and three other significant prefectures. Although health professionals and public opinion are against the Tokyo Olympics Games, there has been no mention of them being canceled, BBC reported.
While recent polls in Japan indicated that nearly 70 percent of the population opposed the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains adamant that the event will be held. Japan has long maintained that the Olympics, which were supposed to be held last summer, would be held and would be safe. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, on the other hand, seemed to bow to public criticism earlier this week, stating that the government would "not bring the Olympics first," but that the final decision would be with the IOC.
Japan expands virus emergency ahead of Tokyo Olympics Games
On Friday, Japan's coronavirus state of emergency was extended from six to nine areas, including Tokyo. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reaffirmed his commitment to hosting the Tokyo Olympics Games in just over two months. Japan has been battling infections in the run-up to the games. The Olympic marathon will be held on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.
Despite the worsening outbreaks, Suga emphasized his commitment to keeping the games safe and secure while protecting the Japanese by tightly monitoring the movements of international players, which might include expelling journalists covering the event if they break the rules. The three new prefectures will follow Tokyo, Osaka, and four other areas still under emergency coronavirus restrictions until May 31, as per Suga, who revealed the news at a government taskforce meeting on Friday.
Bars, karaoke parlors, and any other forms of entertainment would close. Those that cooperate will be compensated, while those who may not will face fines. That was the emergency's second extension in less than a week. Starting April 25, Suga proclaimed a state of emergency in four prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, and then extended it to six regions last Friday. Despite the emergency action, viruses are spreading through Japan faster than they were before, SFGate reported.