Nine of Japan’s 47 prefectural governors recently said the forthcoming Tokyo Olympic Games should be cancelled or postponed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, according to a recent poll.
The questionnaire was sent by the national daily paper Mainichi Shimbun to all 47 governors on April 20 and returned by April 28 and included two questions. One question asked if their province stood to gain by the games being held, and the second asked what they thought should be done about the games in the interests of their residents’ health, providing four possible answers: they should be held no matter what; they should be cancelled or postponed depending on the circumstances; now is not the time to decide; or simply “I don’t know.”
Nine said the games shouldn’t go ahead as scheduled, which would have the first of several test events held on May 9 and the opening ceremonies on July 23. Five others said they didn’t know what should be done and the rest declined to pick any option. Of those who said the games should be postponed or cancelled, several were near the capital of Tokyo and planned on hosting some of the games, including Ibaraki, Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures.
While Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike chose no answer, he did reply with a message saying that “We are all in the fight to suppress the pandemic, and we will continue to prepare a safe and secure event.”
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee said last month that the “show will go on,” pandemic or not, after the games were postponed from their original 2020 schedule due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier that year.
However, that was before Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency on April 23, imposing new restrictions in the metropolitan Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures. However, the emergency period is set to expire on May 11 and serious cases keep rising. Kyodo News Agency reported on Monday that patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms had reached its highest-ever point in the country.
Japan has seen 3.2 million cases of COVID-19 overall, with about 10,400 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Monday, 4,475 new cases were reported in the country, part of a continuous upward trend from March 1 when just 688 new cases were reported.
An opinion poll conducted by Kyodo in early April, as the latest wave was beginning to accelerate, found that 72% of the Japanese public believe the games should either be postponed or cancelled.
Medical staff are reportedly also against the games going ahead, arguing they cannot take the added burden of caring for both COVID-19 sufferers and Olympic athletes.
Some 10,000 medical workers will be needed for the games, which will take place during the hottest time of year. The Japanese Nursing Association was recently asked to contribute 500 volunteer nurses for the event, but the suggestion sparked fury.
“I am furious at the insistence on staging the Olympics despite the risk to patients’ and nurses’ health and lives,” Susumu Morita, secretary general of the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions, said in a Monday statement to the Guardian. “We must stop the proposal to send nurses who are engaged in the fight against a serious coronavirus pandemic to volunteer at the Olympics.”
Organizers of the games have implemented numerous safety measures designed to keep athletes and the public safe as the games go ahead, including cancelling the tickets for roughly 630,000 foreign spectators to the games, banning domestic spectators from the test games scheduled prior to the official games and requiring regular testing for all athletes.