The Olympic Games are almost here; fingers crossed! But how is the city of Tokyo going to tackle the possibility of a spike in Covid-19 infections in the wake of a fourth wave of the pandemic? The Japanese people, who are, perhaps, the most hospitable people on the face of the earth, for once do not seem so eager to have so many people come into their most populated city for what should ordinarily have been the most exciting times in the city.
Japan has an obligation to the world in keeping the promise they made over four years ago to host the Olympic Games; but they also have an equally important obligation to their citizens, especially those living in the city of Tokyo to protect them from the monster that is the coronavirus pandemic. Therein lies the dilemma of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
So, what are the steps Tokyo is taking to make sure of the health safety of their citizens and the participating athletes and officials before, during, and after the Games?
The delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers have proposed several measures to make the games safe, including ways to reduce staff and cut costs in a pandemic era.
Initial measures to be taken to reduce the number of people in contact at the games include virtually hosting pre-game meetings, dedicated transportation services, reviewing spectator activities at competition venues, and restricting the number of stakeholder personnel attending the games.
Other measures include cutting down on the number of invitations for the opening and closing ceremonies, canceling team welcoming ceremonies at the Olympic village, reducing the opening time of training venues, and allowing fewer officials access to official bus services.
1. NO HIGH-FIVES, SHOUTING, OR HUGGING
Initially, authorities were undecided whether Japanese spectators should be permitted to attend Olympics events; with the organizers worried that shouting, hugging, and high-fiving could promote contagion.
However, Seiko Hashimoto, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced that the IOC had agreed that venues will be allowed to be filled to up to 10,000 people. But she did add that if the pandemic situation was to worsen, or if there was a need to declare emergency measures by the Japanese government, the Games could be held without spectators.
This measure the President of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, acknowledged is a sad one as not allowing outside spectators at an event that is normally a massive global party, means that athletes will not be able to have family and friends around to support them in an event that is for some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. According to Hashimoto; to be denied the support of family members and friends who have seen their labor to get to the Olympics is one that causes both the athletes and organizers great sadness and pains.
2. DEPLOYMENT OF ADDITIONAL HEALTH WORKERS
The International Olympic Committee has said that if necessary, it would dispatch additional medical staff to Tokyo in addition to the staff at the designated nine hospitals to treat athletes should they get injured along with the 500 nurses that will be recruited as volunteer workers working on daily rotation at sports venues.
The IOC has assured that over 80% of athletes and possibly 80% of all participants in the games will be vaccinated.
With only about 15% of Japan’s 126 million population had received their first dose of the vaccine as of June 16, concerns have nevertheless diminished greatly in recent weeks as the country’s virus case figures dropped and vaccination rates increased substantially.
After a sluggish start, the country is now vaccinating nearly one million citizens with the first doses of the vaccine every day. Consequently, over 18 percent of the population has now been administered with their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 7.3 percent have been fully vaccinated, following data from the New York Times.
However, the Japanese government plans to inoculate people of age 65 years and above, who make up nearly one-third of Japan’s population, by June ending and complete the vaccination of all the country’s residents by November.
Aware of the public’s reservations, the officials of the Olympic have also come up with very strict regulations on the Games such as the regular testing of athletes for the coronavirus, as well as restriction of monitoring of their movements; with the penalty of disqualification or even deportation if an athlete failed to abide by the rules.
Similarly, the organizers of the Games also have rules for spectators that are aimed at reducing the risks of transmission, including the wearing of face masks, a ban on shouting, and strict guidelines on travel to and from venues.
A trip across the city of Tokyo may reveal a sprinkling of advertisements of the Games around Tokyo; it is still a far departure from the usual razzmatazz associated with the Olympics, with many of the Games sponsors undecided as to how to proceed with events. Although many of the Games volunteers have quit also, one thing, however, seems certain now; come July 23, the greatest sporting spectacle on earth will commence, howbeit, a little muted.
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