On Dec 2, a meeting was held with representatives of the national and Tokyo metropolitan governments and members of the Japan Olympic Committee, to work out measures for dealing with the coronavirus.
While the participants agreed in principle to work together on the issue, reports Nikkan Gendai (Dec 5), nothing really substantial came out of the meeting.
Generally speaking, the difficulties seen in coming up with countermeasures appear to be formidable, particularly when it comes to how many spectators to admit to the various events.
At this point, over 10,000 athletes representing some 200 countries and regions are expected to come to Japan next July, and along with their coaches and other support staff, the total number of overseas arrivals who will be taking up residence in the Olympic village is likely to reach 30,000.
In the plans for the summer games that were aborted this year, some 130 clinics and other outpatient medical facilities, manned by 10,000 medical personnel, were viewed as necessary. And that was before the pandemic.
Under the current situation, however, an acute shortage of medical personnel has developed around the country, and it appears impossible that the organizers will be able to mobilize 10,000 staff.
In addition, the government, in order to attract large numbers of foreign visitors, will place practically no restraints on their movements in Japan. It will not insist that the arrivals be vaccinated as a condition for entry, nor will it place any controls on their movements, such as usage of public transport.
In principle, upon arrival in Japan they will be obliged to show a certificate of proof that they tested negative for COVID-19. Arming them with a smartphone application that can confirm their contacts is also under consideration.
Nonetheless, cases have occurred up to now in which people who tested negative before their departure were tested again upon their arrival, in which case they tested positive. During the month of November for example, out of 50,994 arrivals in Japan, 353 tested positive.
There have also been cases where foreign visitors are believed to have contracted the coronavirus while inside Japan, and the government is now considering requiring visitors to take out private health insurance policy. This presumes that if a foreign visitor become sick, the burden for treating them will fall on Japanese medical facilities, with major results. Presently Japan is in the midst of the third wave of the pandemic, and emergency rooms and hospital wards are already approaching their limits. At the same time, people who show light symptoms, or no symptoms, are obliged to stay in isolation at home.
But on the other hand, should foreign visitors not having a domicile in Japan contract the illness, they will have to be hospitalized or quarantined in special facilities set up for such a purpose.
It's not easy, at this point, to come up with any estimates, but it is known that during the two weeks of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, some 410,000 foreigners visited Brazil. More than 1 million tickets to events at the Tokyo Games have been sold abroad, which means that the potential for persons testing positive and requiring attention could possible reach the tens of thousands.
"The Suga administration and International Olympic Committee are in agreement on avoiding holding of events without spectators," sports journalist Gentaro Taniguchi tells Nikkan Gendai. "Holding events in front of spectators is supposed to signify the 'victory over the virus.' And they see this as something that will have to be done, even if it means sacrificing the health care system.
"In my view, they're taking a cavalier attitude toward people's lives," Taniguchi says.© Japan Today