Tokyo has warned that locals pose a greater danger to the Olympics from Covid than visitors

According to experts studying the event, the biggest risk of Covid-19 to the Tokyo Olympics is not the thousands of athletes and officials coming from abroad, but whether it leads to greater mobility and socialization among local residents.

although Public concern in Japan Focuses on 100,000 athletes, coaches, officials and reporters began to arrive Seven weeks before the matches begin, epidemiologists said the biggest risk is a change in public behaviour.

Their analysis helps explain why Japan has advanced in the Olympics despite widespread opposition, because Tokyo could limit public mixing if it ultimately decides to hold the Games without spectators.

“More than the number of people, it is the way they act. That is the problem,” a Japanese health official who has seen the official epidemiological advice said.

Tokyo and other major cities in Japan are still under Covid-19 emergency, prompting doctors, businessmen and up to 80 per cent of the Japanese public to cancel the Olympics. slow progress vaccination It means that most Japanese people are still susceptible to this disease.

Japan has given at least one dose of the vaccine to only 9 percent of its population,

Experts have identified four separate risks to hosting the Games this summer: Olympic visitors spreading the coronavirus; increased mobility among the Japanese public; pressure on medical resources; and the threat of new variants of Covid-19 entering the country.

Among these risks, most analysts believe that the risk from the Olympic Games carrying the Covid virus is small.

Taisuke Nakata, a researcher at the University of Tokyo, applied a standard epidemiological model to the Olympics. Even with extremely pessimistic assumptions — only half of visitors are vaccinated, none respects quarantine and 100 infections are missed by testing at the border — they have little impact on the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan.

According to the Nakata model, the result of this scenario is an increase of about 15 infections per day after a few months.

Japan is pushing ahead with the Tokyo Olympics despite widespread popular opposition. © Eugene Hoshiko / AP

“Intuitively, the number of visitors to the Olympics is less than 1 percent of Tokyo’s population,” he said. Since the coronavirus is already spreading in Japan, athletes and other visitors cannot speed up the epidemic much.

In fact, 80 percent of visitors are expected to receive vaccinations, and will enter وسوف Strict quarantine With daily Covid-19 tests, its impact on infections in Japan should be minimal.

The most serious threat is that the Olympic Games are prompting a change in the behavior of the Japanese public. Tokyo has taken control of Covid-19 by closing restaurants at 8pm and asking them not to serve alcohol to limit the quantity High-risk socialization.

Filling stadiums with fans will have the opposite effect. “If the athlete you support wins a gold medal, you will scream with joy and then everyone will say ‘Let’s go have a drink,'” said Shigeru Omi, the doctor in charge of Japan’s Covid-19 response, in testimony before Parliament.

at Nakata modelHowever, the growing activity of the Japanese public threatens to increase from 90-120 infections per day within a few months.

“Instead of contact between athletes, or between athletes and ordinary people, it is clearly much more important to restrict the movement of the Japanese public,” Ohmi said.

People protest against the Olympic Games in Tokyo

People protest against the Olympic Games in Tokyo. © Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty

The third area of ​​risk is pressure on the medical system, both in terms of doctors and nurses needed for Olympic staff, and pressure from more coronavirus cases. As a result, Japanese doctors tend to be more negative about games than epidemiologists.

“It will lure doctors away from university and city hospitals,” said Satoshi Hori, an expert in infection control at Juntendo University in Tokyo. “They are volunteers without pay. At the moment, they are busy in hospitals, so this will lead to a shortage of staff.”

Horie said the Olympics should be cancelled. “For a short event, keeping it in a bubble is practical, but having so many events in so many places over the course of weeks — can that really be held in a bubble?” Asked.

The final risk is that a gaming visitor brings a new type of Covid-19 to Japan. Even Naoto Oyama, president of the Japanese Medical Association, speculated that holding the Games might trigger a “Tokyo Olympic” strain of the disease.

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However, most known variants, such as those first discovered in the UK and India, are actually in Japan, although the latter variant found in Vietnam is not. If the variants of Covid-19 do not reach Japan, the additional risk posed by the Olympic Games will be much higher.

Putting all the risks together, the health official said, Japan is thinking about how to run the Olympics rather than moving forward. “We have held many sporting events from sumo to baseball during Covid-19. We have experience keeping the coronavirus at current levels without a strict lockdown.”

Unless the government loses its nerve in recent weeks, Japan will soon try to repeat the trick while hosting the biggest sporting event on Earth.

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