WORLD NEWS

Tokyo Governor Says City Ready For ‘Safe’ Olympics Amid COVID-19 Surge

Gov. Yuriko Koike told Reuters an ongoing vaccination blitz and a prepped hospital system meant the city could “press ahead.”

Tokyo’s governor assured reporters this week the city’s medical system was prepared to hold a “safe and secure” Olympic Games as Japan is set to host thousands of athletes from around the world beginning next week.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told Reuters on Tuesday that the city was planning a last-minute vaccination blitz to better protect residents, with a notable focus on elderly citizens, adding that hospitals were prepared to respond to any burgeoning outbreaks. Her comments come amid an ongoing increase in new coronavirus cases and as Tokyo health officials warn of a high risk of a new wave of infections.

“Very many people will be vaccinated in the coming 10 days and during the Olympics. The biggest change as a result of that will be a substantive fall in the ratio of deaths and severe cases among the elderly,” Koike told the wire service. “Because of that, and because the medical system is ready, I think we can press ahead with a safe Olympics.” 

Koike’s comments come about a week after Olympic organizers said they would ban spectators from most events at the Games amid a new spike in COVID-19 cases in Tokyo. The move was an abrupt about-face after officials initially said domestic spectators could attend the events (international visitors were barred months ago). Also this month, the Olympic torch-passing relay that traditionally precedes the Games was scrapped.

Citing the increase in cases, Japan also placed Tokyo under a state of emergency that will last through the Olympics, until Aug. 22. 

“It’s very sad that the Games are being held without spectators,” Koike told Reuters of the changes. “It’s clear we’ll be able to lower the risks, but the spectators are also very important for the athletes and give them a big boost. It’s a big shame that we have to hold the Olympics without them.”

Japan has struggled with its vaccine rollout, dealing with supply chain issues that have plagued many countries. Only 19% of the population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and just 31% have received at least one jab. 

Polls released in May found more than 80% of people in Japan wanted to cancel the Games amid concerns over COVID-19, qualms that have only grown amid the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.


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