COVID & Tokyo Olympics

  • IASbaba
  • May 31, 2021
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  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

COVID & Tokyo Olympics

Context: Japan has been gearing up to host the Olympics in July 2021 as fresh infections have been steadily declining.

However, things started to change from mid-April when Japan was hit by the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Japan’s Covid situation

  • Japan was recording a seven-day average of less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases this March, and experts believed the country had overcome the pandemic for the third time in the last one year
  • On May 8, Japan’s Covid-19 cases topped 7,000 for the first time since mid-January and currently, Japan is still recording more than 4,000 cases a day.
  • The country has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 Covid-19 deaths from the virus.
  • With Japan witnessing Covid-19 cases at a rate that it has never before, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has already announced emergencies in nine prefectures of the country, including Tokyo — the venue of July’s month’s Olympic Games.

Why has the fourth wave hit Japan so badly? (Compare these points with situation in India)

  • Slow Vaccination: Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialised world, with only 2.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. It started inoculating people only in February, much later than other developed nations.
  • Small Target group: Also, it is only this week that the government started mass vaccination campaigns in Tokyo and Osaka. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games are slated to begin.
  • Multiple Hurdles to Vaccination: However, the progress is considerably slow owing to supply shortages and logistical hurdles, such as getting enough local doctors to help out. There has also been considerable confusion over how to secure slots. Many across the country have complained about errors while booking their slots for the new mass vaccination centres run by the government 

What about the Olympics?

  • After having been postponed by a year (supposed to have been held in 2020), the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to go ahead despite severe criticism from around the world. 
  • Resistance towards holding the Games under the shadow of the pandemic has also grown in Japan, with one of the country’s most prominent business tycoons calling out the government over its decision to continue with the Games.
  • In a survey released in Japan, 83 per cent of those polled said they did not want Tokyo to hold the Olympics and the Paralympics. That total was up 14 percentage points from a survey in April. 
  • The medical organisation, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors, posted an open letter to PM Yoshihide Suga on its website saying that it would “strongly request” the authorities to arrange a cancellation.
  • Athletes have also come out to voice their hesitation over holding the Games. America’s track and field team earlier this week cancelled its pre-Olympics training camp in Japan out of safety concerns. 
  • The United States Center for Disease Control has also said that “travellers should avoid all travel” to the country, warning that in the “current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of contracting and spreading” different Covid variants.
  • Olympics, to date, has been cancelled only thrice in 1916, 1940 and 1944 — all three cases due to the two World Wars. So, despite mounting criticism and protests, John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, has promised that the Games would “absolutely” go ahead, even under Covid restrictions.

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