No Tokyo Olympics if coronavirus is not controlled, warns top Japanese doctor
“Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” said the head of the Japan Medical Association.
The delayed Tokyo Olympics probably cannot be held in 2021 unless a vaccine is developed before then to defeat the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Japan Medical Association (JMA) has said.
“Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” Yoshitake Yokokura, JMA president, told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday. “I’m not saying at this point that they shouldn’t be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan ... it’s a worldwide issue.”
He urged developers to "step up the pace in (producing) treatments and vaccines."
The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics this year was made in late March. The Olympic organizing committee re-scheduled the sports gala for July 2021.
The one-year delay of the 2020 Olympic Games was a major blow to Japan, which had already spent $13 billion preparing for the event. As the outbreak has spread around the world, infecting almost three million people and killing more than 200,000, experts have warned that the fight against the virus could be prolonged.
Yokokura, however, didn’t answer whether his organization would oppose holding the games without a vaccine available. "The global state of infections at that particular time will be a key issue," he said. "It will be difficult even if the situation in Japan has become better if infections continue to spread" abroad.
Referring to Japan's declaration of a nationwide state of emergency through May 6, Yokokura said he believes the government "won't be able to lift it altogether" on that date, with the number of infections rising in areas around Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka and Fukuoka prefectures.
Meanwhile, several health experts have already cast doubt on plans to hold the Games next year. Last week, Kentaro Iwata, a specialist in infectious diseases, said he thought it “unlikely” that the Games would be held just over a year from now, the Guardian reported.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” said Iwata, a professor at Kobe University. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; one, controlling Covid-19 in Japan, and controlling Covid-19 everywhere.”
“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation.”
Earlier this month, Tokyo Games CEO Toshiro Muto had said: "I don't think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not. We're certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.
"I think rather than thinking about alternative plans ... mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard, so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines."
Japan has so far recorded about 13,600 cases and 394 deaths, according to the country’s Health Ministry. These numbers are minute when compared to the catastrophic outbreak in the US and other European countries.
Laboratories in several countries are working on vaccines to protect people against the novel coronavirus and drugs to treat its symptoms. The need to conduct exhaustive clinical trials to test their effectiveness and safety, however, mean it could be months before they are widely available.
Japan could approve Gilead Sciences Inc's coronavirus treatment remdesivir as early as May, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, Fujirebio, a subsidiary of Japanese diagnostics and laboratory testing service provider Miraca Holdings, applied on Monday for government approval for Japan’s first antigen coronavirus testing kits.
Japan had declared a state of emergency in its capital in Tokyo and six other areas in early April that has since been widened to cover the entire country.
It is the first time in history that the Olympics have been postponed during peacetime, with the Games in 1916, 1940 and 1944 cancelled because of world wars.