A Japanese doctor who leads a major physicians' union is warning that the upcoming Tokyo Olympics could be a superspreader event for new variants of COVID-19.
The Associated Press reported that Naoto Ueyama, the head of the Japan Doctors Union, said Thursday that he worried health officials are not properly considering the ramifications of inviting thousands of foreign athletes and support staff to the country in July.
“Since the emergence of COVID-19 there has not been such a dangerous gathering of people coming together in one place from so many different places around the world,” he reportedly told journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “It’s very difficult to predict what this could lead to.”
“I think the key here is if a new mutant strain of the virus were to arise as a result of this, the Olympics,” Ueyama continued.
Ueyama added that due to the existing stress on Japan's hospital system presented by its ongoing struggles with the virus, Olympic participants should not expect special or rushed treatment if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.
“It is dangerous to hold the Olympic Games here in Tokyo,” he said, adding: “The Olympic Games are not something that should be held even to the extent of Armageddon. The question is for whom are the Olympics being held and for what purpose? I don’t think that someone who could make such statement has any understanding of these questions.”
“It will not be possible for hospitals to provide any special treatment for those involved in the Olympics,” Ueyama said. “They will be having the same treatment under the same rules that are available to the Japanese people.”
His comments are the latest salvo fired by top Japanese health experts in their efforts to convince the nation's government to cancel the games. The decision to host the games after they were postponed last year has led to opposition in Japan from many who warn the country is not ready for an influx of visitors.
Japan is also struggling with a low vaccination rate and has only immunized less than 10 percent of its total population.
A separate union of physicians, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, earlier this month came out against the games being held .
“We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” the association said.