Story at a glance

  • The head of a Japanese doctors union warned officials Thursday that holding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could lead to a new coronavirus variant.
  • Naoto Ueyama expressed his concern that a new strain could emerge from the Tokyo Olympics, as the delayed summer games will play host to “all of the different mutant strains that exist in different spaces.”
  • "If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean a Tokyo Olympic strain of the virus being named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something which would be the target of criticism, even for 100 years."

The head of a Japanese doctors union warned officials Thursday that holding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could lead to a new coronavirus variant. 

Naoto Ueyama, head of the Japan Doctors Union, expressed his concern that a new strain could emerge from the Tokyo Olympics, as the delayed summer games will play host to “all of the different mutant strains that exist in different spaces,” Reuters reported Thursday

“We cannot deny the possibility of even a new strain of the virus potentially emerging," Ueyama said at a press conference, according to Reuters. "If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean a Tokyo Olympic strain of the virus being named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something which would be the target of criticism, even for 100 years."


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Yet officials have said the games will take place as scheduled, with backing from some members of the medical community. Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute of Population Health at King’s College, London, told Reuters that “mutation takes place when virus stays in immuno-compromised or partially immunised people for a long period of time." 

Ueyama also addressed an Olympic Committee member’s stance that the games would proceed even amid a state of emergency. 

"In regards to these statements, the people of Japan are indeed holding great anger towards this, and this is even more the case for healthcare and medical professionals," Ueyama said.

An official games’ partner, and prominent Japanese newspaper, voiced its opinion Wednesday that the 2020 Olympics should be cancelled. The paper argued that Japan is “far from a situation in which everybody can be confident they will be 'safe and secure'."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued on Monday a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Japan.

Johns Hopkins University data shows that 2.37 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated. Japan reported 4,485 new cases in the past day, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country over the course of the pandemic to more than 731,000. 


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Published on May 27, 2021