Japanese epidemiologist doesn’t believe Tokyo Olympics could be held in 2021

Tokyo, Apr 20 (efe-epa).- A Japanese infectious diseases specialist said that the now-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will not be held in the summer of 2021, as planned, due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

“Holding (the) Olympics needs two conditions, one: controlling COVID-19 in Japan and (two) controlling COVID-19 everywhere, because you have to invite the athletes and the audience from all over the world,” Kentaro Iwata said Monday during an online press conference.

“Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer, I wish we could, but I don’t think that would happen everywhere on Earth,” he added.

Iwata, who was among the first to criticize the handling of the quarantine measures aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February, said he was “very pessimistic” about the prospects of the Olympic Games being held even in 2021 unless their format was significantly altered “such as no audience, or very limited participation.”

Unlike other sporting events, in which only 40-50 countries gather, “hundreds of nations” take part in the Olympics and “you have to invite so many athletes from many, many places, which is not very compatible with these COVID-19 infections, which is causing a pandemic,” according to the epidemiologist, who was on the ground during the Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreaks.

COVID-19 cases in Japan have risen progressively since the sporting event was postponed to over 11,000 infected and about 250 deaths.

These figures are much less than those in certain countries in Europe or the United States, which Iwata attributed to Japan being “very lucky to be very successful in Plan A, which is the cluster chasing and cluster containment strategy with the minimum PCR test as compared to the other nations,” although not across the country, as shown by the large number of cases in Tokyo and Osaka.

“The figures of the newly infected people reported daily was relatively stable. My biggest fear was the explosion of the diagnosis of thousands or even more daily infections like in New York City which didn’t happen,” the doctor said. “Despite the fact that still the number of the PCR tests in Tokyo might be under the adequate numbers but still I’d say that these numbers are much better than the worst case scenario.”

Amid conspiracy theories that Japan might be covering up coronavirus cases and deaths, Iwata said that he considered government data to be relatively reliable despite its restrictive testing policy.

“Japan’s government didn’t try to count every infection to begin with…So you don’t have to consider the official figure as the precise number of the infected, but the number would suggest the trend of the infection going up and down at every prefecture, so you can consider this number as the indicator of the trend” of the rate of infection, he said.

Although the epidemiologist believes that Japan’s initial strategy worked well, he also believes that the country should have changed it once it stopped being effective.

“Traditionally, Japan is not very good at changing the strategy. When we begin one strategy, so-called Plan A, we’re very poor at converting it to Plan B and we are very poor at even thinking of Plan B because…it is a sign of admitting the failure of Plan A,” he explained.

However, the change in strategy was finally taking place in Tokyo and other areas, he added, as was evident in “increasing the number of the tests, increasing the capability of the healthcare societies and the rooms of hotels and other facilities to accept asymptomatic patients,” all recommendations that were being made since February but hadn’t happened until now, according to the expert. EFE-EPA


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