Japanese opposition leader Yukio Edano warned on Friday that the Tokyo Olympics could lead to an “explosive” increase in Covid-19 cases in the country, echoing the sentiments of several doctors and politicians in the country who have called for the games to either be postponed or canceled.
According to Nikkei Asia, Edano warned that “high mobility” of people during the summer games could lead to a “domestic explosion of cases” in August and September at a level that is higher than what Japan is currently experiencing.
Edano called on the Japanese government to negotiate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about either postponing the games for another year or canceling them altogether.
The IOC, however, seems to be pushing forward with the games as scheduled with its vice president John Coates stating that a decision on having spectators at the games will be made by the end of June.
Coates told reporters on Friday that he would “love to see” crowds at the Olympics and noted that the decision on having them in attendance will likely be made alongside rules for all other ongoing sports leagues in Japan—indicating that the Olympics may not get a special allowance.
20.3 million. That’s the total number of vaccine doses that have been administered in Japan, with almost 11% of the population getting at least one dose, according to Bloomberg’s vaccination tracker. Despite a late start, the pace of Japan’s rollout has picked up significantly in the past few weeks with the country administering around 710,000 doses per day in the past week, according to Reuters, which is getting close to its intended target of 1 million daily doses.
Edano’s statement comes at a time when public ire over the Olympics has caused Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government’s approval ratings to hit an all-time low. According to a poll conducted by Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun earlier this month, approval for Suga’s cabinet stands at 37%—a sharp decline from 74% approval it enjoyed after being formed in September last year.
While the number of new Covid-19 cases has declined sharply across Japan, Tokyo—the host city—continues to report around 400 new cases on average every day. Japanese doctors have called for the games to either be postponed or canceled and warned that the country’s medical infrastructure is already stretched thin by the pandemic. Despite this, the government is reportedly planning to allow domestic spectators to attend the Olympics as the government feels increasingly bullish about the vaccine rollout. All discussions about the games are taking place under the assumption that domestic spectators will be in attendance, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier this week, citing an official from the Japanese Prime Minister’s office. Japanese media commentators have suggested that Suga may be hoping that a successfully organized Olympics could help boost support for his government, which would allow him to call snap elections immediately after the games.
Japan Reportedly May Allow Domestic Spectators To Attend The Olympics (Forbes)