A recent report said people who plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics must either be vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) or show a negative test result. According to government officials, spectators of the games must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed entry. The unnamed officials justified the requirement as part of “strict countermeasures” to curb Wuhan coronavirus infections during the event.
Japanese daily newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun elaborated on the new health protocols in a May 31 report. Once allowed into the venue, spectators must also wear masks and fill in health check forms. They are also prohibited from cheering loudly, high-fiving other audience members, eating and drinking alcohol. It warned that spectators may be denied entrance to venues or kicked out for any infractions.
Furthermore, the report said security personnel would be stationed around venues to monitor watchers’ behavior. Public viewing venues for the Olympics were scaled down – if not cancelled entirely. The Yomiuri report noted that organizers would decide the total number of spectators allowed to watch the Olympics at any given event.
The newspaper also published a new poll on May 31 that shows 49 percent of Tokyo residents in favor of the Olympics pushing through. Of the 49 percent in favor, 25 percent said they wanted a limited number of spectators to attend while 24 percent wanted the Olympics to proceed without a live audience. Meanwhile, 48 percent of Tokyo residents said they wanted the Olympics cancelled.
On the other hand, the results of a nationwide poll published by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) newspaper painted a different picture. The Nikkei poll found that 34 percent of respondents wanted the event to push through this summer. More than half of the respondents at 62 percent wanted the Olympics to be cancelled or postponed once more. However, organizers have repeatedly ruled out any plans of another postponement.
Vaccinations in the Land of the Rising Sun have been moving at a snail’s pace. As of writing, only less than 2.5 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated. To make things worse, the central government in Tokyo blamed the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) for the slow vaccine rollout. (Related: Japan requiring domestic clinical trials before giving coronavirus vaccines the green light.)
Minister for COVID-19 Vaccines Taro Kono said during a TBS TV appearance: “Even though we are in a state of crisis, we’re still using the same rules to approve vaccines that we do under normal times.” He added: “In the wake of this [coronavirus] situation, the administration needs to change [its vaccine approval process.]” The PMDA and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kono’s statements.
To speed up the inoculation program, the central government opened two mass vaccination centers for citizens 65 years old and above. According to the Japan Times, the centers at Tokyo and Osaka opened on May 24. The report added that the two hubs will operate for a three-month period. (Related: Japan opens mass vaccination centers specifically for citizens 65 years old and above.)
The Tokyo and Osaka mass vaccination centers would have a combined capability of administering 15,000 vaccine doses every day. The Tokyo hub catering to the city’s residents and those living in the Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures would be capable of 10,000 inoculations. Meanwhile, the Osaka hub catering to those living in the Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures would be capable of administering 5,000 doses daily.
The two vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka contributed to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s COVID-19 inoculation targets. Earlier in the month, he expressed his intention to increase inoculations to one million shots per day. The central government under Suga aimed to fully vaccinate Japan’s 36 million residents 65 years old and above by the end of July – in time for the Olympics’s opening ceremony.
The central government’s vaccination centers have inspired other local governments to push through with similar proposals. A poll by Kyodo News found that 28 prefectures and major cities have either decided or considered setting up vaccination hubs for their respective areas. These included the Aichi, Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures and the city of Kobe.
Aside from establishing new vaccination sites, the central government said it is also considering other ways to encourage Japanese to get their COVID-19 shots. One such method it proposed was allowing pharmacies to administer the vaccines to elderly customers.
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