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Olympics Chief Offers Additional Medical Help For Tokyo As Pressure Mounts To Cancel Games

Published 8 months ago
By Forbes

TOPLINE The president of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach on Wednesday offered to increase the number of medical professionals available in Tokyo to help out during the Olympics, amid growing calls from Japan’s medical community to cancel the games which are scheduled to start in just nine weeks as the country continues to witness a surge in Covid-19 cases.

KEY FACTS

Speaking in Tokyo on Wednesday, Bach rejected calls for canceling the Olympics and insisted that the IOC will hold “safe and secure” games, the Associated Press reported.

Bach promised that medical help would come from various national Olympic committees and be available in the Olympic village and sports venues, however, details on this were extremely thin.

The IOC president said he believed more than 80% of the residents of the Olympic Village, which accommodates competing athletes, would be vaccinated or booked for vaccination ahead of the Games.

Bach also said “hundreds of sports events” have been held safely during the pandemic and noted that none of the “test events” held recently in Tokyo turned out to be “virus spreaders.”

Bach’s address comes at a time when doctors organizations in Japan have warned of a collapse of the country’s medical system and that the event has the possibility of increasing the spread of the infection.

Nikkei reported that less than 40% of medical workers in Japan have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and the problem is more severe in Tokyo and other major urban centers where the vaccination rate among health workers is less than 30%.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“For obvious reasons, we cannot give [athletes] every detail yet, but the most important principle is very clear: the Olympic Village is a safe place and the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be organized in a safe way,” Bach said.

CHIEF CRITIC

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners’ Association warned: “The medical systems responding to COVID-19 are stretched thin, almost to their limits. The reality is that the entire medical system faces an almost insurmountable hardship in trying our best to respond with coronavirus measures.” The letter added a “strong request” for authorities to convince the IOC to cancel the games.

BIG NUMBER

2.2%. That’s the percentage of Japan’s 126 million-strong population who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 according to Bloomberg’s global vaccination tracker. Reuters previously noted that this was the slowest rollout among wealthy countries.

KEY BACKGROUND

The organizers of the Tokyo games have said they will need about 10,000 medical personnel during the Olympics and have also asked for 500 extra nurses and 200 sports medicine specialists. Several districts near Tokyo have warned that they will not give priority to treating Olympic athletes and at least 40 Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host visiting athletes amid concerns about inadequate resources. The increasingly unpopular decision to press forward with the event has also faced pushback from Japanese citizens online and a petition to call off the games has now crossed 373,000 signatures. The petition, which was launched earlier this month, argues that it is “highly possible” the Olympic Games will become a “superspreader” event that will “cause danger and fear to healthcare workers, citizens and participants.”

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