Japan determined to hold Olympics despite COVID concerns
Despite a fourth wave of coronavirus infections taking over and a low vaccine rate, Japan’s government says it will hold the 2021 Summer Olympics no matter what.
Japan extended its third official state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic. The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan hit 6,800 on Thursday. The country’s fourth wave of COVID-19 infections has been blamed on a hasty attempt to re-start the economy, lax lockdowns, and pandemic fatigue.
The country so far has approved only one vaccine, and restrictions on who can administer shots have also hampered inoculations. As a result, only about 3% of the population has been vaccinated.
A publisher took out full-page ads this week in three major newspapers and criticized Japan’s slow vaccine rollout, comparing it to arming citizens with sticks during World War II.
Economist Sayuri Shirai, of Tokyo’s Keio University, said fear is rife that the Olympics will further strain Japan’s medical system and unleash a super-spreader event.
“We were very much worried about this growing number of infected people. And many hospitals are under stress… So people are quite worried about this Olympic games,” Shirai told CBS News’ Lucy Craft.
The Olympic torch relay is slowly winding its way across Japan just nine weeks before the opening ceremony.
The USA Track & Field team canceled its training camp for about 120 athletes in Chiba, east of Tokyo, due to the spike of infections. Some of the world’s top athletes are also voicing their concerns, including tennis star Naomi Osaka who said while she wants the games to be held, they are not worth putting people at risk.
“Of course, I would say I want the Olympics to happen because I’m an athlete… I feel like if it’s putting people at risk, and it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion,” she said,
But Olympic aspirant and indoor-mile record holder Elle Purrier said the setbacks surrounding the Games wouldn’t slow her stride, and she continues to train for the July 23 event.
“Training and preparing the best that we can for the Olympic trials and just focusing on the simplicity of that and not trying to get caught up in the hype,” Purrier said. “I think that could really bring people down and be really stressful and take too much energy. So as athletes, we are just trying to focus on preparing and getting stronger.”