Doctors Union Pressures Japan to Cancel Tokyo Olympics

Ron Atias of Israel, and Venilton Teixeira of Brazil compete in the men's Taekwondo event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
AP/Andrew Medichini

A union of Japanese hospital doctors on Wednesday urged Tokyo to cancel its upcoming Summer Olympic Games, slated to begin on July 23, warning it would be “impossible” to stage the event safely amid the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

“We strongly oppose holding the Tokyo Olympics at a time when people around the world are fighting the new coronavirus,” the union said in a statement submitted to the Japanese government on May 12.

“It is impossible to hold a safe and secure Olympics during the pandemic,” the union, which represents staff doctors at various Japanese hospitals, said.

“We can’t deny the danger that many kinds of new virus variants will bring to Tokyo from around the world,” the union statement added.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, originally scheduled for last summer but postponed due to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, are set to start in Tokyo on July 23 and run through August 8.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide on May 7 ordered Tokyo to extend a pre-existing coronavirus “state of emergency” over the city through May 31, just 53 days before the Olympic games are set to start. The Japanese government ordered the “state of emergency” extension for Tokyo and other regions across the country in an effort to contain a recent “fourth wave” of Chinese coronavirus infections that has spread nationwide.

The new surge in daily Chinese coronavirus infections across Japan already pushed the country’s hospitals beyond capacity.

“Osaka and Hyogo [prefectures], in particular, have struggled to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] patients, with several reports of people dying at home while waiting to be admitted,” Kyodo News reported on May 7.

Japanese medical experts warned the nation’s government in recent weeks that the Tokyo Olympics could possibly spark a national health crisis since the country is already struggling to treat coronavirus patients.

“It is extremely important to evaluate how much medical care will be burdened [by the Tokyo Olympics],” Omi Shigeru, the head of the Japanese government’s advisory panel on the Chinese coronavirus, told Japanese lawmakers on May 13. Omi warned Japan’s government about the Tokyo Olympics’ potential to cause a surge in Chinese coronavirus cases in Japan and overload the country’s healthcare system since at least April.

The governor of Chiba prefecture, Toshihito Kumagai, said his district canceled plans this week to host an advanced training camp for Olympic athletes because the prefecture “could not guarantee hospital beds for athletes” should they need treatment for the Chinese coronavirus.

“Chiba prefecture is not thinking about securing scarce hospital beds … for athletes and people involved in the Olympic Games in a way that would prohibit our residents from using them,” he told reporters on May 13.

“About 40 ‘host towns’ for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have abandoned accepting overseas athletes in advance training camps and exchange programs due to pandemic concerns, according to government sources,” the Nikkei Asian Review reported on May 13.

Japanese health authorities reported more than 7,000 new cases of the Chinese coronavirus on May 12, with 969 cases recorded in Tokyo.

“A record 712 daily coronavirus cases were confirmed on Thursday [May 13] in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido where the Olympic marathon will take place, according to the government,” Reuters reported.

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