Challenge of dealing with influx of Olympic visitors amid virus seems insurmountable


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

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Planning and preparing for the worst is the only way to execute competently should the need arise. This is neither a plan nor preparation and I see only bad news at the end of the tunnel for these games. These numbers don't even address the number of patients who will require emergency treatment from heat stroke. Wearing a mask in the heat and humidity is not a good condition even for locals let alone foreigners. I really pity the health care workers. Good luck Tokyo, not my Olympics, don't tax me.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Studies have been done in environments where screening is quite strict and they helped to understand one thing, screening will not prevent the spreading of the infection.

Thinking that such a huge event can take place if you use ineffective measures to control it, and while in shortage of the necessary health services, hoping against hope that this would just turn up well is just irresponsible.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Either insist on attendees being vaccinated or cancel. This blind insistence that things can carry on as normal is insane. I don’t think many people would turn up anyway; fear of catching the virus, lack of flights and the cost of those that are available and a general queasiness at the pretence that everything is OK will make many ticket holders think twice.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Yep. The more you look at it, the more plain crazy the idea of holding a massive international event and inviting tens of thousands of potentially unvaccinated people from countries with sky-high infection rates looks.

The IOC and Tokyo should just admit the inevitable now and cancel the Games in 2021.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

In addition, the government, in order to attract large numbers of foreign visitors, will place practically no restraints on their movements in Japan.

As of now, PRs have to take a test even before setting foot on the plane going to Japan, and then everyone has to take another test in Japan and cannot take public transport from the airports, thus possibly having to spend in excess of 20,000 yen. Those coming back have been tested twice and are more likely to wear a mask and take precautions - I would trust them more than I would the Japanese I've seen on the trains NOT wearing a mask. I've had to move away from one in disgust.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I wouldn't be just focusing on visitors to Japan. There are residents here who refuse to wear masks, despite being fully aware of the dangers.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The Tokyo Olympics are set to start on July 23rd, are they not? By then, everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have had an opportunity to do so. Problem solved. Covid-19 by next July should be no more of a danger than measles or polio.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

1glenn@ I certainly hope you are right. Really hope these games can go on, but hoped they would have come up with at least a decent plan of action by now, what with all of those meetings and what not. So far it seems they are taking the minimalist approach and just trying to ignore the problem away. The act of non-action. Surely there are more options on the table. Have been quizzing students online and excitement about the games is dwindling fast. Firm, decisive action is needed, no time for paltry efforts.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Cancel the games and take the loss!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The loss is already taken, if cancelled now money is only saved not lost.

it is completely untrue that 1 million tickets abroad have been sold. They may be allocated to federations and official travel agents and of course if the organisation does not take them back you can consider them sold but it is quite sad to act as such.

Foreign visitors will be minimal.

Giving priority for vaccination to athletes and staff would be completely immoral but that has never stopped the IOC.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Cancel them already! How stubborn can you be?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I've got a really simple, foolproof solution... as it appears others do.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

Found out yesterday that Trump has refused to buy enough vaccine to inoculate the US population. Just when I truly thought he couldn't mess things up any worse.........

I suspect that in Japan the pandemic will be under control by the opening date of the Olympics, but in The States, we are in the position of having to hope that Biden can make up for Trump's lack of foresight. So far, Pfizer has said that they will not be able to supply more than the initial 50 million two-dose vaccinations for the USA until at least July, because Trump, on multiple occasions, refused their offer to make vaccinations for this country.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I wonder what percent of Americans will refuse to be vaccinated because they're convinced an insidious microchip will be implanted in their bodies.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I know a lot of people, including a lot of people who voted for Trump, but I do not know a single person who has said that they will not take the vaccine when it becomes available. The stories about microchip conspiracies are entertaining, and I suspect there are those who believe such things, but I have not yet met anyone of that ilk. So, if I were to make an estimate, I would say that the percent of people who believe the microchip conspiracy theory is low, at least here where I live in California. Maybe in places like South Dakota, where 47% of people who get tested are testing positive, and where people still refuse to wear masks, these conspiracies are popular.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It’s well past time for the Olympics to revamp the whole system, decentralize totally, into various countries and continents over an extended period of time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unless you've been vaccinated you shouldn't be allowed into the country full stop.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This whole thing seems more and more desperate every week, bad solutions to even greater problems, complete lack of planning, contradicting measures.

I suspect the whole thing is actually a really big effort to make the whole japanese population hate the olympics as much as possible so the government can use it as an excuse to call it quits.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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