Sports

Tokyo Olympics: Amid Covid-19 fears, medical officers at venues call for no spectators

Organisers are to decide on Monday whether to allow domestic spectators into the stadiums for the Games, which were delayed by a year due to the pandemic and now set to start in about a month.

64% of the public want the Games to happen without spectators, a poll found.

64% of the public want the Games to happen without spectators, a poll found. (Reuters Photo)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Medical officers said the pandemic adds further strain to what already is an extremely busy job
  • If the Games go ahead, 64% of the public want them without spectators, a poll found
  • Organisers are to decide as soon as Monday whether to allow domestic spectators into the stadiums for the Games

Some emergency medicine officers overseeing Tokyo Olympic venues are calling on the organisers to bar spectators over risks of a jump in COVID-19 cases. Organisers are to decide as soon as Monday whether to allow domestic spectators into the stadiums for the Games, which were delayed by a year due to the pandemic and now set to start in about a month. Foreign spectators have already been banned.

The Tokyo 2020 president is eyeing a cap of 10,000 people per venue, even as government health experts warn against in-person audiences. Overwhelming public opposition to the Games has eased somewhat, but a Friday poll from Jiji news found 41% still want the Games cancelled. If the Games go ahead, 64% of the public want them without spectators, the poll found.

Each of the 42 venues has a dedicated official in charge of medical services. Dozens of veteran medics are assigned to handle problems from heatstrokes to injuries to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and typhoons.

With the opening ceremony set for July 23, Shoji Yokobori, the medical officer for the weightlifting venue, said he fears not knowing how many people will attend. “The ‘no spectator’ scenario is better than other options. We may still have a severe pandemic this summer,” said Yokobori, the chair of the Nippon Medical School Hospital’s department of emergency and critical care medicine in Tokyo.

“I’m the commander of the venue. The number of people in the audience is my biggest concern. I’m hoping there won’t be so many spectators,” he said.

Yokobori and two other medical officers told Reuters the pandemic adds further strain to what already is an extremely busy job, requiring quick decision-making and on-the-spot assessment of risks. Olympic organisers have held conference calls with the doctors once or twice a month but have provided only “rough” information so far, Yokobori said.

“We don’t have much information on how many spectators and how many athletes will be there. That’s why we can’t imagine what it will look like,” he said.

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