Thorough anti-infection measures needed to realize Tokyo Olympics

Less than two months are left before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. The novel coronavirus pandemic has yet to be brought under control. The government must clearly present a course toward realizing a safe Games.

The International Olympic Committee said that it has allocated about 7,800 berths, or 70% of the total number of participating athletes, to participating countries. Qualifying competitions to select athletes to represent their nations have been progressing rapidly in those countries. There are many sports in which the national representative athletes have already been decided.

Progress has also been made in vaccinating athletes. More than 75% of the athletes and officials of each participating country who plan to stay in the athletes village are said to have been vaccinated or are set to be inoculated. In Japan, the vaccination of athletes is scheduled to begin on June 1.

The government has given up on admitting spectators coming from overseas. It can be said that the environment for holding the Olympics is being readied.

However, there are growing concerns about conducting the Games. According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, about 60% of the respondents hoped it would be canceled. It appears inevitable that the ongoing state of emergency will be extended again due to the spread of coronavirus variants.

The Olympic Games will bring athletes and officials from all over the world to Japan. It is natural that people are concerned that the Olympics could be an opportunity for the further spread of infections in Japan.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed his eagerness to realize a safe Games, but has not spoken sufficiently about specific measures to prevent infection. This response has undeniably exacerbated public anxiety.

The government should thoroughly explain the current situation and the issues related to infection control measures.

Foreign athletes and officials will be required to undergo tests every day after entering Japan, as well as before coming to Japan and when they enter the country. Their movement outside the athletes village will also be strictly restricted. If these measures are thoroughly implemented, the risk of athletes bringing new infections to the nation can surely be reduced.

The problem is how to monitor the actions of nearly 80,000 officials. The government intends to ask them to refrain from all activity for 14 days after entering Japan, but it is not easy to restrict the actions of people from different cultures and with different ways of thinking.

The government will require them to submit their activity plans and written pledges to provide records of their location information, among other things, upon entry into Japan. If they do not comply, they will face severe punishment, including deportation. It is important to make such a policy well known to them through each country’s government and sports organizations, to seek their understanding.

The organizing committee said that it will likely secure 80% of the medical workers needed for the Games. The committee intends to set a ceiling on the number of spectators by the end of June. It needs to respond flexibly to the issue after determining the infection situation.

Over the past year, various measures have been taken to prevent infections at large facilities, event venues and elsewhere. It is vital to make use of this accumulated knowledge to implement thorough countermeasures at the Games.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 27, 2021.