Could the cancellation of the Olympic Games prevent the “5th wave” of Covid-19 in Japan?
Despite serious precautions, the main problem of the Tokyo Olympics remained the situation with the coronavirus in the country. The influx of athletes from all over the world puts residents at risk. About 90 thousand people arrived in the city (participants, staff, heads of delegations).
The Olympic Games created many stories of overcoming and the human spirit. Any sports fan could find all the betting tips for significant events such as the Olympics on the bookmaker-ratings website. But opinions divided if it was reasonable to organize the event in the first place.
The situation in Japan before the Games
In Japan itself, the fight against the virus is not considered practical. The country easily survived the first wave of covid, so further problems surprised many: Japan’s fifth wave was in full swing during the Games. In Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto, Japan introduced an emergency regime until May 11, but the number of cases did not decrease, so the country extended the emergency until June 1. Aichi and Fukuoka were also added to the unfavourable regions. These restrictions continue to be in full force.
The opening hours of restaurants have been reduced, and establishments serving alcohol, cinemas, and karaoke bars are closed.
The Japanese hope that short-term but decisive measures will resolve the situation with the virus. Although the number of infections reached 1,69 m and the number of deaths exceeded the 17 thousand mark. In addition, a highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, considered to be more infectious, has quickly spread in Japan.
The problem is aggravated because vaccination is very slow: only 2.2% of the population have given at least one vaccine in May. Japan has used 15% of the drug’s reserves. Twenty-four million doses were still stored in freezers at the same time. The vaccination campaign began later than in other developed countries: since February this year, vaccinations have been given to health workers and since mid-April to the elderly. The low rate is associated with difficulties in logistics and a lack of personnel. September government data shows that almost half of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated.
Japan does not yet have an approved local vaccine (clinical trials require many test subjects), so the country uses the American drug from Pfizer. In May, they agreed on supplies from Moderna (USA) and AstraZeneca (UK). Due to the state of emergency, the Olympic torch relay, which started on March 25, has been interrupted several times.
Why didn’t the authorities cancel the games?
The country’s authorities are fighting together with the International Olympic Committee and the organizing committee for the Olympics. Cancellation of the Games will cost $ 41.5 billion (the tournament is insured, but insurance is unlikely to cover all costs). But the residents of the country are against holding competitions during a pandemic. Periodically, the Japanese media polls citizens about whether to host the Games this summer. So, almost 40% believed that the tournament should be cancelled, while 33% favored re-postponing. The May vote showed that 60% of respondents preferred the complete cancellation of the Olympics.
At the beginning of the month, a cancellation petition on Change.org collected more than 200 thousand signatures in only two days. It is a record for the Japanese segment of the platform. Residents of Tokyo and other cities were highly concerned because of the danger of COVID spreading.
Probably the safest thing to do was to drop the Games. Scientists told this:
“The organizers strive to host the Games and do not care about people’s health due to financial incentives. The worst-case scenario is the emergence of new strains of the virus that could further spread the disease in Japan and kill large numbers of people, as is the case in India”, said Professor Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University Hospital.
On the other hand, the pandemic has lasted for over a year, and people need hope. What can inspire more than a large-scale event designed to unite? The organizing committee of the tournament believes in this:
“By successfully hosting the Tokyo Games, we hope to create a legacy that will go down in human history.”