What is the impact of the Tokyo Olympics on COVID-19? | Coronavirus pandemic news


One year later, the Tokyo Olympics finally took place as scheduled.

But there is nothing exciting about the Japanese capital. 85,000 representatives including athletes, officials and journalists are expected to gather at the opening ceremony of the global sports event on Friday.

Since the world is still under the control of the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympic host city is in the fourth virus-related emergency, most of the unvaccinated Japanese public worry that the Summer Olympics may become a super spreading event. And overwhelm the already tense situation in the country’s medical system.

Even more worrying is that the number of daily cases in Tokyo is currently at the highest level in six months, and now at least 91 people who are approved to participate in the Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19.

The public’s opposition to the Olympics was so fierce that Toyota, the top corporate sponsor, removed Olympic-themed ads from Japanese TV, and more and more politicians and business leaders avoid The opening ceremony of the Summer Games. It is said that even Emperor Naruhito considered omitting the word “celebration” when he officially announced the opening of the sports game on Friday.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insists that the Olympics, where almost all local and foreign spectators are banned, will be “safe.”

If the Olympics are completely cancelled, this for-profit sports organization will lose US$3 billion in broadcasting rights. The organization stated that 85% of athletes arriving in Japan were either vaccinated or immunized, and insisted that its safety measures meant athletes.” It may be the most controlled population anywhere in the world at this point in time.”

The “broken” Olympic bubble

The International Olympic Committee’s COVID-19 manual stipulates that Olympic visitors must have two negative test results within 96 hours before arriving in Japan, and another negative result upon landing. They must also download location-enabled contact tracking applications on their phones and limit their domestic activities to certain “bubbles.”

In the Tokyo Olympic Village, which accommodates about 11,000 people, athletes share rooms but are tested for coronavirus every day and are required to wear masks at all times—except when sleeping, eating, or playing games. Athletes who win gold, silver or bronze medals will also be required to hang their medals around their necks. Athletes who complete the event must leave the country within two days of the last event.

Christophe Dubi, the executive director of the International Olympic Committee, described the IOC’s rules as “strict,” “thorough,” and “very strict” on Sunday.

“There is no such thing as zero risk,” he told reporters in Tokyo. “At the same time,” he added, “the mixing and intersection of crowds is very limited, and we can ensure that communication between groups is almost impossible.”

However, Japan is increasingly worried that the measures of the International Olympic Committee are neither properly implemented nor fully implemented.

On July 22, 2021, Japanese Self-Defense Force soldiers stand guard at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Athlete’s Village [Naoki Ogura/Reuters]
Athletes and people wearing protective masks arrive at Narita International Airport before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

Monday, daily newsReport The airport reception was “chaotic” for those who were approved to participate in the Olympics. “Some athletes approached ordinary passengers and fans to ask for autographs.”

Asahi Shimbun Report Last week, several Olympic representatives stopped at the airport to shoot themselves and hit other passengers with their fists, adding that Tokyo hotels were working hard to monitor the movements of people living with them. The newspaper said that hotel staff were “annoyed by their role in maintaining the bubble around the Olympic delegation,” and quoted a manager as saying, “This is not even our job.”

The famous Japanese health expert Kenji Shibuya said that even before the Olympics officially started, the IOC’s bubble system “seems to have burst”.

“The IOC’s script is not perfect, and many visitors and representatives did not follow the guidelines,” said the former director of the Institute of Population Health, King’s College London. He warned that the inability of the International Olympic Committee to monitor the movement of tens of thousands of tourists-coupled with the antigen tests used by border authorities, “the possibility of false negatives is higher compared to PCR tests”-may increase the spread of the virus . Delta variant with high spread in Japan.

He said: “The fundamental problem is the lack of open, transparent and scientific discussions on the conditions under which the Olympics can be held safely and securely.” “Japan is in the fourth state of emergency, and the number of cases in Tokyo is increasing. Between 40 and 50 years old. The number of hospitalizations is also increasing. Globally, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly, and vaccine promotion in many countries, including Japan, is limited-this is obviously not the right time to host the Olympics.”

The majority of the Japanese public agrees with this view, and a staggering 68% Under investigation The Asahi Shimbun also stated earlier this week that they did not believe that the Olympics could be held safely.

The IOC “failed”

Annie Sparrow, assistant professor of health sciences and policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, based in the United States, said that if the International Olympic Committee had listened to expert advice, it could have avoided “the ongoing disaster at the Tokyo Olympics. “.

Sparrow reviewed the IOC’s script in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He said that the organization chose “ineffective cheap measures rather than scientifically proven methods.” She said that the IOC’s recommendation is based on an outdated understanding of how COVID-19 is spread-the disease can only be spread through large droplets that quickly fall to the ground, not through small particles that linger and spread in the air. .

She said that the International Olympic Committee and local organizers must take immediate measures to limit the spread of aerosols, including placing hospital-grade air filters in every hotel room, every venue, every means of transportation, every cafeteria, and every shared space. Filter or HEPA filter.

Athletes wearing protective masks in the Athlete Village [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]
Protesters gather in front of the Hiroshima Memorial in Hiroshima, western Japan, on July 16, 2021, when Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, visited. The banner in the middle reads: “Bach, don’t come to Hiroshima!” [Nuga Haruka/Pool via AP]

Athletes must also be placed in a single room and wear appropriate masks.

“Face masks cannot protect them,” she said, adding that athletes should use filter-type mask respirators, such as N95 respirators, in close contact environments such as transportation vehicles.

“Test everyone, not just athletes, everyone in the village,” she said, expressing concern about what she said was insufficient protection of Olympic staff. “And vaccinate all workers, all volunteers and all officials.”

Sparrow is also worried that the Olympic Games may become a large-scale communication event on a global scale. She said that the International Olympic Committee and local organizers must “conduct real-time genomic testing so that athletes do not unknowingly take the mutation home to unvaccinated, unprotected, and different healthcare infrastructures. crowd”.

There are less than 24 hours before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, but many Japanese say it is not too late to cancel the event.

“There is no way to hold such an event safely,” said Satoko Itani, an associate professor at Kansai University in Japan.

“The International Olympic Committee had a year to prepare, but they failed. Therefore, cancellation is the safest way.”

She added: “People’s lives are at stake. As a host country, our greatest responsibility is to protect people’s lives. At this point, the best thing we can do is to cancel this Olympic Games as soon as possible.”

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