Tokyo Olympics: Health experts, organizers disagree on admitting fans

Tokyo: Japan’s leading medical experts warned on Friday that holding the Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic could increase infections, saying the ban on all spectators is the least risky option to set up a possible clash with organizers . The report, led by chief health adviser Shigeru Omi, was released after the head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee told the Sankei newspaper that she wanted to allow up to 10,000 spectators in stadiums for the global sports extravaganza, which took place on 23 July begins. Japan continues to host the multi-billion dollar delayed Games despite concerns about another surge in COVID-19 infections and strong public opposition, although organizers have banned spectators from overseas. The cancellation of the event – originally intended to showcase a trained nation after decades of hardship – would be costly for organizers, the Tokyo government, sponsors and insurers. “This event differs from ordinary sporting events in scope and social interest, and because it overlaps with summer holidays … there is a risk that the movement of people and opportunities to communicate during the Olympics will spread infections and hinder the medical system. , “experts said. “Holding the event without games is the least risky option, and we think it’s desirable.” A final decision on local spectators will be made during a meeting already held on Monday between the organizers of Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. ‘I would like it to be held with spectators. I plan to go to the five-course event with that in mind, ‘said Sankei newspaper Seiko Hashimoto, head of Tokyo 2020, in an interview published late Thursday. Hashimoto said Omi’s advice would inform talks between the IOC and others.

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The government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday decided to lighten the curbs of the coronavirus in nine prefectures, including Tokyo, while meeting some “quasi-emergency” restrictions. Omi experts agreed earlier this week that the number of spectators at domestic events could increase to 10,000, but only in areas where ‘quasi-emergency measures’, including the restriction of restaurant hours, have been lifted. Tokyo is expected to be under less severe restrictions until July 11 after the state of emergency – the third since April last year – expired on June 20 for the capital. The removal of earlier emergencies was followed by new increases in infections and stress in hospitals.

Not normal

According to the expert report, organizers must be prepared to act quickly to ban spectators or declare another state of emergency if necessary. It is also recommended that restrictions be strict if spectators are allowed, but it should be limited to residents of the local area. Omi, a former official of the World Health Organization, has become increasingly vocal about the risks the virus could spread. Earlier this month, he told parliament that it was ‘not normal’ to hold the Games during a pandemic. Hiroshi Nishiura, a professor at Kyoto University and epidemiology adviser on the government’s pandemic response, which is a sign of the Omi recommendations, said he believed it would be best to cancel the Games , but the decision was for the government and organizers. “If the epidemic situation has worsened, there should be no debate about spectators and the cancellation of the Games in the middle (of the event),” he said.