Japan's hosting of Olympics in pandemic 'not normal', adviser warns

Doctors have said the Olympics would strain a healthcare system already seeing record numbers in critical condition.
Doctors have said the Olympics would strain a healthcare system already seeing record numbers in critical condition.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's most senior medical adviser said on Wednesday (June 2) that hosting the Olympics during the nation's current state of coronavirus infections was "not normal", in one of the strongest warnings yet about risks from the troubled Games.

Doctors have said the Olympics, due to start on July 23 after postponement from last year, would strain a healthcare system already seeing record numbers in critical condition.

Only 2.7 per cent of Japanese have completed inoculations, a Reuters tracker shows. The pace of new infections has, however, slowed.

Addressing a parliamentary committee, medical adviser Shigeru Omi said organisers should explain to the public why they are going ahead in the middle of a pandemic.

"It's not normal to hold the Olympic Games in a situation like this," said Dr Omi.

Polls show that most people in Japan are opposed to holding the Games, concerned about tens of thousands of athletes, officials and media descending on the country, where last week a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas was extended to June 20.

"If we are going to hold the Games under these circumstances... then I think it's the Olympic organisers' responsibility to downsize the scale of the event and strengthen coronavirus control measures as much as possible," Dr Omi added.

The soft-spoken Dr Omi's unusually stark comments contrasted with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and organisers, who have reassured the world they can stage "safe and secure" Games.

A senior International Olympic Committee official in charge of organising the Games enraged the Japanese public in May by proclaiming that the Olympics would be held even if Tokyo was under the state of Covid-19 emergency.