With 100 days until the Olympics, Japan has vaccinated less than 1% of its population

They’ll be given a small bottle of hand sanitizer and two masks every.

“They don’t talk about vaccines, they don’t even talk about us being tested,” mentioned German volunteer Barbara Holthus, who’s director of Sophia University’s German Institute for Japanese Studies, in Tokyo.

That concern has been amplified by Japan’s battle with a looming fourth wave. The nation handed 500,000 complete coronavirus instances on Saturday, and a few prefectures are once more tightening their Covid-19 restrictions as each day infections develop. Hideaki Oka, a professor at Saitama Medical University, mentioned Japan could not have the ability to comprise the newest wave earlier than the Games start on July 23.

While Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated Monday his pledge to safe 100 million vaccine doses by the finish of June, up to now Japan has solely vaccinated about 1.1 million of its 126 million individuals — less than 1% of the population. Only 0.4% have acquired two doses.

Holthus mentioned supporting the Games was meant to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” alternative. “But now it’s just a really dangerous experience,” she mentioned.

In an announcement to CNN, Tokyo 2020 organizers mentioned they have been making ready to carry “a safe and secure Games without presuming there will be a vaccine and even without vaccines.”

“On the other hand, we hope that vaccines will be properly administered at home and abroad and that the infection will, therefore, be reduced as a whole,” the assertion mentioned.

Slow vaccine rollout

With a $25 billion Olympics to host, arguably no nation in Asia had extra incentive than Japan to get its Covid-19 instances below management and vaccinate its population.
Yet Japanese regulators have been gradual to approve Covid-19 vaccines, in comparison with different governments, taking extra than two months to permit the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Its rollout didn’t start until February, and senior residents solely started to obtain their doses on April 12, in line with Kyodo News.
Experts mentioned half of the delay was as a consequence of official warning designed to keep away from the vaccine skepticism that has broken earlier vaccination efforts in Japan. Either means, that method has left Japan lagging different Asian nations, similar to China, which has administered 171 million vaccinations, and India, which has given out 108 million doses.

“They say elderly citizens are supposed to have a vaccination by June, but in reality, even medical staff who is treating Covid hasn’t got vaccinated yet,” mentioned Oka from Saitama Medical University, including he did not consider the June vaccination goal could be met.

Oka mentioned the authorities ought to prioritize vaccinating all athletes coming into the nation for the Games, however the Japanese authorities has resisted this method, after media experiences that Olympians would be prioritized sparked a social media backlash in Japan.
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Beijing had provided to offer vaccines for all athletes in the 2020 Olympics however Tokyo turned down the offer, saying no Chinese-made choices have been but licensed to be used in Japan.

International spectators have been banned from the Games to attempt to decrease the danger of Covid-19 spreading at the occasion. But extra than 11,000 athletes from over 200 nations are anticipated to take part.

Without plans to vaccinate athletes, the tens of 1000’s of volunteers participating stand little likelihood of safety.

Holthus mentioned Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko instructed volunteers throughout a Zoom name she was relying “on your smile” to make the Olympics successful — a very jarring declare as a result of they might all be sporting masks.

“(We were told) ‘Your smile is going to make the Olympics exist’ and you wonder, are you kidding me?” mentioned Holthus, who’s scheduled to volunteer as a ticket collector.

One volunteer, who attended an 80-minute lecture on infectious illness management for Games volunteers, mentioned a prime Japanese professional in infectious ailments instructed them they should not rely on being vaccinated forward of the occasion.

“(He said) unless you are elderly there won’t be enough time for ordinary people to get vaccinated,” mentioned the volunteer, who requested to stay nameless to keep away from being excluded from her position in the Olympics. She mentioned she felt offended and scared after the presentation.

The volunteer, who had taken half in earlier Olympics, mentioned she was contemplating dropping out until all volunteers have been vaccinated. “Not doing so is showing reckless disregard for our lives, and the optimal safe environment that Japan as a host country is obligated to provide,” she mentioned.

Tokyo 2020 did not reply to questions on the content material of the presentation given to volunteers.

Questions over athletes

Even nations with nearly no infections have struggled to carry main sporting occasions throughout the pandemic.

In January, some gamers arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis event complained on social media about the strict well being screening measures they encountered. At one level, spectators have been banned for several days amid a small Covid-19 outbreak in the metropolis.

For Japan, the place there have been 2,112 new instances on Tuesday, it will be a much bigger problem.

International spectators will be refused entry into Japan for Tokyo 2020
International contributors will want a destructive Covid-19 take a look at inside 72 hours earlier than they journey to Japan, the place they are going to be retested, in line with the Tokyo 2020 Playbook launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on February 21.

But in line with the IOC doc, athletes won’t be required to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Japan, until they’ve breached the nation’s Covid-19 precautions or probably been uncovered to the virus.

During the Games, contributors will probably be “tested for Covid-19 at different intervals,” and all athletes and guests will probably be assigned a “Covid-19 Liaison Officer.”

International friends have been requested to solely go away their lodging to “go to official Games venues and limited additional locations,” a listing of which will probably be launched in the second playbook, as a consequence of publish this month.

Hugs and high-fives are to be prevented and no public transport ought to be used. A face masks should be worn always.

Tokyo 2020 organizers didn’t reply to questions on how social distancing measures could be maintained at the Olympic village.

An Olympic super-spreader occasion?

While athletes in the Olympic village can have all examined destructive earlier than arriving in Japan, they are going to inevitably are available in contact with tens of 1000’s of untested volunteers who will probably be shuttling between the Olympic venues and their properties.

The Tokyo 2020 website mentioned volunteers ought to take public transport to Olympic venues when they’re volunteering. In Tokyo on Tuesday there have been 510 new confirmed instances of Covid-19.
In an announcement to CNN, Tokyo 2020 mentioned it had printed a leaflet informing volunteers about Covid-19 countermeasures, together with masks sporting, washing arms and preserving a protected distance from others.

In response to a query on whether or not any Tokyo 2020 occasions could be postponed as a consequence of Covid, the assertion mentioned that the scenario was “changing every moment.”

Holthus mentioned along with the hand sanitizer and two face masks, Games officers had provided volunteers a “health condition diary” through which they might document their very own well being standing.

“It’s going to be concentrated groups of people from all over the world, mixing together. What if there is a cluster that develops in one of the Olympic venues? What if it comes from one of us?” she mentioned.

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Oka, the Saitama Medical University professor, shared the volunteers’ issues, saying the Games might allow the unfold of harmful Covid-19 variants not solely via Japan, however round the world.

Oka mentioned he was additionally involved Japan’s already stretched hospital system would not have the ability to cope if there was a sudden inflow of athletes and volunteers contaminated with the virus. “As an infectious disease specialist, I cannot approve of holding the Games in a situation where not enough vaccinations has been made and enough countermeasures put in place,” he mentioned.

In an announcement to CNN, the Tokyo 2020 organizing physique mentioned it had “high hopes” the Covid-19 scenario in Japan would enhance forward of the Olympics. “We will continue to work closely with these parties as we prepare to deliver a safe and secure Games this summer,” the assertion mentioned.

Olympics volunteer Philbert Ono mentioned he trusted the authorities and the IOC to maintain the athletes and volunteers protected.

“The Japanese, they love to witness history. And you know this Olympics is very, very much a historical Olympics … this is going to be a very different Olympics. And that’s another thing I’m looking forward to,” he mentioned. “I just want to see how they do it.”

But Holthus mentioned she did not consider the Games ought to go forward with the present state of preparation, which was a “recipe for a super spreader event.”

“We can’t even yet imagine how bad it could be,” she mentioned. “But the damage will be done once the Games are being held. There’s no turning that back once everybody flies in.”

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