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Although still weeks away, the Olympics are approaching with remarkable speed — and yet Japan remains mired in the coronavirus crisis.
A poll by Yomiuri Daily Newspaper Monday showed that half of Japan thinks the games will go on as planned, despite escalating opposition.
More than half of Japanese citizens — 60% — have called for a delay or cancelation of the games, and over 10,000 volunteers have dropped out due to COVID concerns.
The coronavirus statistics are not trending in the right direction. Each day 100 people in Japan die from COVID, and it’s far from slowing down: Tokyo alone sees 500 new cases per day. Only 2-3% of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated.
If the games continue as planned, the athletes, visitors and media — both vaccinated and not — from over 200 countries will arrive in less than 50 days.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga aims to vaccinate all elderly residents of Japan by the end of July. But even if Japan reaches this goal, 70% percent of the Japanese population would still not be fully inoculated by the opening ceremonies on July 23, according to the Associated Press.
Lawmakers opposing the event gathered Monday to press Suga and his cabinet’s decision to move ahead with the games in spite of the growing health fears.
Suga’s approval rating dropped to 40% last month, the lowest it has been since he took office 10 months ago.
Doctors are now even warning of the event creating new mutations, dubbed the “Olympic strain.”
“All of the different mutant strains of the virus which exist in different places will be concentrated and gathering here in Tokyo. We cannot deny the possibility of even a new strain of the virus potentially emerging,” head of the Japan Doctors Union Naoto Ueyama warned.
Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top health adviser, said hosting the games in the middle of a health crisis is “not normal.”
The decision to cancel, however, cannot be taken lightly—a full cancellation would cost the country an estimated $17 billion. Insurers who backed the event would face a $2-3 billion loss. Brokers say this would be the largest claim for a global event ever made in history.
Either option could result in catastrophe, and the pressure is felt by the people of Japan and the decision-makers alike.
A Japanese senior Olympics official died Monday after jumping in front of a train.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach insists the games will still go on as scheduled, even if they are accompanied by “some sacrifices.”
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