And, it’s official . . .
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reached an agreement on Tuesday to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was a significant departure from Japan’s earlier resistance to postponing the Games. Just two weeks ago, Abe pledged that Japan would host the Games as planned in July. However, as countries are increasingly affected by the outbreak, athletic communities across the globe increased pressure on Japan to change course. Earlier this week, the Canadian Olympics Committee and Paralympic Committee was first to announce that they would not send athletes to the Games in the summer of 2020. The call for the Games’ postponement was later joined by the Australians, British, and French.
Japan’s approach to combating coronavirus . . .
Japan has 1,212 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 43 associated deaths so far. In response to the pandemic, Japan has shut all schools and cancelled all public events since early March. Japan’s annual cherry blossom festivals, which usually see widespread gatherings of friends and family, have also been cancelled. However, it has not prevented people from gathering en masse in popular parks. Meanwhile, shops, restaurants, and offices have remained open. With only 37,726 tests completed between mid-February and mid-March, there has been mounting criticism over insufficient testing as a means to keep numbers artificially low. “Japan has not contained (the virus), or perhaps I should say we cannot even judge whether we have contained it without conducting (a sufficient number of) tests,” warned a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University.
The way forward . . .
The governor of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, which was the earliest and hardest hit part of the country, declared a state of emergency from February 28 to March 19 in anticipation of an explosion of COVID-19 cases. Residents there were urged to stay home during this period. As infections slowed down, the governor ended the state of emergency, with 163 cases. This brings some hope to policy-makers in the rest of the country. With 41 new cases in Tokyo, the country’s capital is becoming a new outbreak epicentre. The governor of Tokyo has stated that a complete lockdown would be considered if there is a rapid surge of cases. Back home, as Canada braces itself for more cases, the federal government has so far yet to declare a nation-wide state of emergency. Six provinces have declared their own state of emergency, while another three have enacted a public health emergency.
- The Guardian: Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic
- Japan Times: Experts sound alarm over Japan’s coronavirus testing
- The Mainichi: Japan's Hokkaido to lift state of emergency over virus