WORLD / ASIA-PACIFIC
Tokyo doctors call for cancelation of Olympics due to COVID-19
Published: May 18, 2021 06:28 PM
A top medical organization has thrown its weight behind calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics saying hospitals are already overwhelmed as the country battles a spike in coronavirus infections less than three months from the start of the Games.

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association representing about 6,000 primary care doctors said hospitals in the Games host city "have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" amid a surge in infections.

"We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its ­decision to cancel the Games," the association said in an open letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

A jump in infections has stoked alarm amid a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas of the ­Japanese capital, promoting the ­government to extend a third state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures until May 31.

Doctors would soon face the added difficulty of dealing with heat exhaustion patients during the summer months and if the Olympics contributed to a rise in deaths "Japan will bear the maximum responsibility," it added.

Other health experts and medical groups have voiced their concerns about the Olympics, while an online petition calling for the Games to be canceled was signed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Overall, Japan has avoided an explosive spread of the virus experienced by other nations, but the government has come under sharp criticism for its sluggish vaccination rollout. Only about 3.5 percent of its population of about 126 million has been vaccinated.

Underscoring the challenges with the vaccinations, booking systems for mass inoculation sites being launched in Tokyo and Osaka - which started accepting bookings on Monday - were marred by technical glitches.

Still, Suga says Japan can host "a safe and secure Olympics" while following appropriate COVID-19 containment measures.

Preparations for the Games are ­progressing under tight COVID-19 ­protocols, such as an athletics test event featuring 420 athletes in early May.

But multiple pre-Olympic training camps, including one for the US track and field team have been canceled, and athletes have voiced concerns about the Games taking place in the midst of a global pandemic.
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