Coronavirus: Tokyo is finally starting to vaccinate young people under 65 in a race against time leading up to the Olympics
A mass vaccination center in Tokyo will begin booking Covid shots for people under 65 from Saturday, the Sankei newspaper reported Thursday, as Japan ramps up efforts to vaccinate people before the 2020 Olympics open next month.
Japan started vaccinating frontline health workers and the elderly in February, but the slow pace compared to other major industrialized countries has forced the Tokyo Games to be postponed again or even cancelled.
Many Japanese are concerned that the country is unprepared to host tens of thousands of foreign athletes and Olympic officials as the health care system grapples with a fourth wave of infections.
Tokyo officials are doing everything they can to ensure the city’s July Olympics can take place
The vaccination center in Tokyo will also make telephone appointments for the first time from Saturday, in addition to online bookings to encourage more people to use the center.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Department, which operates the site, declined to comment.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that Japan aims to vaccinate all citizens requesting injections by November. That may require about 1 million injections per day.
With less than 50 days before the Olympics begin, Japan has vaccinated just over a tenth of the population with at least one dose. Organizers will decide this month whether people in Japan will be allowed to attend events after previously banning foreign spectators.
The Japanese capital is stepping up its efforts to vaccinate as many citizens as possible
However, in a sign of continued concern over the risk of more infections during the Games, the governor of Chiba Prefecture canceled plans on Thursday for an Olympic viewing location in a park that would have drawn thousands of people.
“We have decided to cancel the plans for the live site,” Toshihito Kumagai said at a press conference broadcast by local media.
Chiba prefecture, in neighboring Tokyo, hosts four Olympic events – surfing, fencing, wrestling and taekwondo – and four Paralympic events. On Wednesday, the prefecture registered 106 new cases of COVID-19, compared to 440 in Tokyo.
The Tokyo 2020 president has insisted that the Olympics go ahead “100 percent” despite public calls to cancel them.
Seiko Hashimoto insists that the Games – which can attract up to 90,000 athletes, coaches, media and officials from abroad – will take place behind closed doors at worst.
“I believe the possibility of these Games going ahead is 100 percent that we will do this” she told BBC Sport.
Japanese citizens have even taken to the streets to show their disapproval and anger at plans
‘The biggest challenge will be how to control and manage the flow of people. Should there be an outbreak during the Games that amounts to a crisis or an emergency, I think we should be prepared to hold these Games without spectators.’
However, there are still many voices protesting against the Games going ahead, with one vote even suggesting that the athletes themselves should protest.
Kaori Yamaguchi, a leading Japanese Olympic Committee member and former Olympic medalist, said Japan was “cornered” to host the Games, adding: “The Games have lost all meaning and are held only for them. .
“We’ve been cornered in a situation where we can’t even stop now. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
The Games start on Friday, July 23, before the closing ceremony two weeks later on Saturday, August 8.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says Japan plans to vaccinate all citizens in November
To date, Japan has recorded 768,000 cases and 13,801 deaths from the coronavirus. There were 165,000 cases and 2,112 in Tokyo alone.
The current seven-day average for new infections in the country is 2,207.
A scholarly article has also warned of the need for a fourth state of emergency in the country’s capital, should the plan to ease current restrictions continue on June 20.
A team of scientists led by Hiroshi Nishiura, a member of the Health Ministry’s panel of experts, says a state of emergency may be needed to help the country’s health care system for two months starting in August, due to a predicted high infection rate among the younger population.