There is the fear that the numbers of new infections are going to be more than before.
The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo in the middle of the Olympic Games is causing much concern among Japanese authorities. There were 3,865 cases on Thursday compared to 3,177 on Wednesday. The number of cases for the whole of Japan was 9,500 on Wednesday.
The total number of cases since the pandemic broke out in 2020 stood at 892,000, and the number of deaths at 15,000. In the last seven days, the average stood at 28 per 100,000 compared to 18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India. Only 23.6 per cent of the population has been vaccinated so far, and 70 per cent of the elderly, that is 24.8 million people.
There is the fear that the numbers of new infections are going to be more than before. It has been clarified by Japan’s vaccine minister, Taro Kono, that the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases is not connected in any way to the Olympic Games. Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike has said that according to experts the cases in Tokyo could reach 4,500 per day by the middle of August.
The Japanese are quite determined to go through with the Olympics. Though there have been some infections in the Olympics contingents, they have been isolated. The greatest sports event in the world is unfolding with much excitement as records are broken, new champions emerge, and established ones crash out.
It is indeed the case that the Japanese and thousands of other foreign spectators are being deprived of watching the events at various venues. But the Olympics should be seen as a gesture of defiance of the global pandemic, raising the hope that virus cannot break the human spirit. It would have been a great disappointment not only to the athletes across the world if the Games were to be abandoned, and there was sufficient justification to do so, but it would have been a dampener for the whole world. There was need for the reassurance that life must go on.
For more than a year now, Japan has been one of the countries which has managed to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19 and compared to the European countries and the United States, the situation seemed manageable. For the first time, Japanese authorities express the fear that the explosion of infections this time round will strain the health system. Already, many people who have tested positive have been quarantined and waiting to be admitted to hospitals. Though the government had declared emergency in Tokyo, the prefectures – the local administrative units – around Tokyo have also expressed the need to declare an emergency. It looks like that by the time the Olympics get over by August 8, the Japanese will be facing a renewed Covid crisis.
An Indian epidemiologist, Chandrakant Lahariya, writing in the Hindu newspaper on Thursday, has argued that even as countries prepare for years to host the Olympic Games in terms of building stadia, creating sporting facilities, so there is a need for countries to invest in the health infrastructure to face future pandemics because COVID-19 is not the last one. It has been recognised in the medical research circles that the only way to deal with Covid is to manage it effectively.
So the lesson to be drawn is: As countries make elaborate preparations over the years to host the Olympic Games, in a similar way they have to constantly prepare to face a pandemic like Covid.
If you are armed with hospitals and medicines, then you can cope with the pandemics. This cannot be done overnight. Perhaps this is the right lesson to learn from the Tokyo Olympic Games in the time of COVID-19.