COVID-19 fears continue to loom large on Tokyo Olympics

The fears about a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic are still weighing heavy on Olympics 2020, as officials didn’t rule out the eleventh-hour cancellation.

More and more athletes have started testing positive for the virus, and sponsors have shelved the plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony.

Toshiro Muto, the chief of Tokyo Games, said that he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liaise with other organisers if necessary, when quizzed about chances of cancellation at a presser.

“We will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” said Muto.

“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

As many as 67 cases of COVID-19 infections in Japan are among those accredited for the Games since July 1.

The global pandemic, which has left more than 15,000 Japanese citizens dead, is resurging in the country. With 20,910 cases reported in the last seven days, the country has seen its fresh weekly infections jump by 51% on a sequential basis. This has forced the country’s government to go into a state of emergency.

The surge has fuelled uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, as the organisers of the games decided against opening up the venues for spectators. This may lead to a loss of billions of dollars of economic activity for the far-eastern economy as sports enthusiasts from across the world would not be travelling to the country.

What makes matters worse is the fact that Japan is seen lagging globally on the vaccination front. The country has, till now, administered 71 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Assuming that every person needs two jabs, this number would mean that the country has vaccinated little more than one-fourth of its 126 million population.

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is the prime organiser of the global sporting mega-event – had earlier said that cancelling the event had never been an option. Mr Bach had also promised to keep the Games “safe and secure.”

However, locally, many people have expressed their reservations on the capability of the organisers to control the infections in light of the event. Many Japanese have been in favour of cancelling the event, which is set to commence after a year of postponement.

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