Hosting the Olympics during the current state of coronavirus infections in Japan was “not normal”, Japan’s most senior medical adviser has said in one of the strongest warnings yet about risks from the troubled Games.
Doctors have said the Olympics, due to start on July 23 after a postponement from last year, would strain a healthcare system already seeing record numbers in critical conditions.
Japan has reported more than 750,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including 13,170 deaths as of June 2.
Only 2.7 percent of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the current phase targeting older adults is not scheduled to finish before the Games start.
The pace of new infections has, however, slowed.
Addressing a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, medical adviser Shigeru Omi said organisers should explain to the public why they are going ahead in the middle of a pandemic.
“It’s not normal to hold the Olympic Games in a situation like this,” said Omi.
“If we are going to hold the Games under these circumstances … then I think it’s the Olympic organisers’ responsibility to downsize the scale of the event and strengthen coronavirus control measures as much as possible,” Omi added.
Polls show most people in Japan are opposed to holding the Games, concerned about tens of thousands of athletes, officials and media descending on the country, where last week a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas was extended to June 20.
Around 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help at the Olympic and Paralympic Games have quit, broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday, citing organisers.
The soft-spoken Omi’s unusually stark comments contrasted with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and organisers who have reassured the world they can stage “safe and secure” Games.
A senior International Olympic Committee official in charge of organising the Games enraged the Japanese public in May by proclaiming that the Olympics would be held even if Tokyo was under a state of COVID-19 emergency.