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Masked people in front of advertising for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
Virologists warn of risks and the people don't want them, but the Japanese government insists, 'the games must go on'Image: Morio Taga/Jiji Press Photo/dpa/picture alliance

Coronavirus: Japan to vax Olympics helpers, journalists

June 8, 2021

As Japan pushes ahead with Olympics, a top virologist has warned of risks. Celebrities have meanwhile launched a campaign to get jabs to Africa as leaders gear up for G7 summit.


A top virologist warned Japan that is risks internationally spreading the coronavirus at the Olympics Games, despite its assurances.

As it prepares to open the Games on July 23, virologist Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor at Tohoku University and a top government health advisor, told the Times newspaper of London: "The government and the organizing committee, including the IOC [International Olympic Committee], keep saying they're holding a safe Olympics. But everybody knows there is a risk. It is 100% impossible to have an Olympics with zero risk of the spread of infection in Japan and also in other countries after the Olympics."  

Oshitani said, "There are a number of countries that do not have many cases, and a number that don't have any variants. We should not make the Olympics [an occasion] to spread the virus to these countries."

Japan is taking number of steps to make sure the games can go on — albeit with a now one-year delay and despite broad public opposition to staging them. 

Firstly, the games have been drastically scaled back, with no foreign spectators allowed. It also remains unclear whether Japanese visitors will be allowed to attend events.  

On Tuesday, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto announced that Japan's 70,000 Olympics-related staff could expect to start getting vaccinated in mid-June. Last week, some 10,000 volunteers quit the games, most over coronavirus safety concerns.

To date, Japan has recorded over 760,000 coronavirus infections and more than 13,600 deaths. Meanwhile, Tokyo and other regions remain under a state of emergency as a fourth wave strains hospitals. Last week, top government medical adviser Shigeru Omi said medical experts planned to deliver a statement by June 20, when the state of emergency is set to be lifted.

Media arriving from abroad to cover the event — some 6,000 foreign journalists are expected — will also be closely monitored to ensure they don't leave pre-registered areas such as hotels and sports venues, according to organizers. 

Tokyo Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto said smartphone tracking technology would be used to make sure journalists only go where they are supposed to. "Given the current state of the pandemic, I think this is a tolerable restriction on activities," said Muto. Journalists breaking rules could have their passes revoked, he said.

Reporters will also be urged to stay in designated hotels rather than private lodgings, and the number of hotels will be reduced from 350 to around 150 as organizers seek to keep visitors under close supervision.


Celebrities are urging the G7 countries to pledge some of their coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries that do not have sufficient supplies ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall in southwestern England this weekend.

"The world has spent a year and a half battling the COVID-19 pandemic but the virus is still spreading in many countries and producing new variants with the potential to put us all back where we started," nearly 30 celebrities, including actors Liam Neeson, Orlando Bloom, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Whoopi Goldberg and soccer star David Beckham said in an open letter.

"This means more school closures, more healthcare disruptions, and greater economic fallout — threatening the futures of families and children everywhere," it read.

The letter was signed by numerous UNICEF goodwill ambassadors and other popular names like singers Katy Perry, Billie Eilish and Angelique Kidjo, as well as soccer player Sergio Ramos, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso and tennis star Andy Murray.


Germany has recorded 1,204 new cases of the virus, taking the country's total infections to 3,702,688, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The reported death toll has risen by 140 to 89,384.

The seven-day incidence fell from 24.3 to 22.9. This indicates the number of people per 100,000 who have contracted the virus in the last seven days. 

A doctor in Germany is under investigation for administering a dose of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to a nine year old, although the jab is only allowed for those 12 and over. The doctor now faces charges of negligent bodily harm.

Police say it is unclear how the child, who was accompanying her father to his vaccination date, came to be vaccinated. Authorities say employees at the vaccination center in southern Germany will be questioned about the incident. A lawyer representing the center said the doctor in question assumed the child was an at-risk patient in need of vaccination. The center said the decision was a mistake and that the employee had been fired.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday announced that it would deliver a decision on administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 12-17 in July. The EMA will perform an expedited review of data submitted by the manufacturer and says that it does not expect delays unless it requires additional data from Moderna. The company is seeking approval for the age group from the EU and Canada and plans to do so in the US — all three have already approved its use for anyone 18 and over. A two-dose vaccine, Moderna's shot would be the second approved for teens in the EU after BioNTech-Pfizer was approved last month.


Canada is set to ease border restrictions for those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus, according to a report by Bloomberg. 

Travelers who have received two shots may not have to complete the 14-day isolation period that is currently mandatory in the country. However, they may still be asked for a coronavirus test or quarantined for a shorter period. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce the plan within days, the report says.

The US State Department on Tuesday loosened its travel warnings for Germany, Canada, France, Japan and several other countries, telling Americans to "reconsider travel" rather than "do not travel." The move could faciliate international travel, particularly between the US and Europe.

COVID: An unfolding health crisis in rural India


South Korea administered 857,000 coronavirus vaccine doses on Monday, setting a new record in the country's delayed inoculation drive. The country's vaccination rate has risen to 16.4% for a first dose, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Global shortages and shipment delays have hindered South Korea's vaccination efforts after the country received international recognition for checking the spread of the virus through aggressive high-tech contact tracing. However, the country expects to meet its mid-year target by inoculating nearly 14 million people ahead of schedule.

The government plans to vaccinate 70% of its population by the third quarter.

India's official daily COVID-19 caseload fell under 100,000 for the first time in over two months after peaking at over 400,000 cases a day in May. With 86,498 cases added in the past 24 hours, the country's total number of cases has risen to 29 million, second only to the United States.

The government reported 2,123 new fatalities linked to the virus, raising the death toll to 351,309. According to experts, both figures have been vastly underreported.

China has become the first country to approve COVID vaccines for young children after approving the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine for kids as young as three.

"In recent days, the Sinovac vaccine was approved for emergency use in three- to-17-year-olds," a spokesperson for Sinovac told AFP. It remains unclear when children will start receiving the vaccine. 

The spokesperson said the schedule will be decided by the country's National Health Commission "according to China's current epidemic prevention and control needs and vaccine supply".

After a slow start, China has administered over 777 million vaccine doses to date.

Tokyo Olympics: Games at any price?

js,see, wd/aw (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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