Japan is working closely with the International Olympic Committee to prepare for the Games and despite concerns about the Covid-19 cases flare up, there are no plans to delay it, said the Japanese minister in charge of vaccinations.
“Unless they decide otherwise, we just have to prepare for the Games, how to control the situation. I think that changes almost every day, so they have to be ready for that. But I don’t think they’re thinking of postponing that,” Taro Kono told Martin Soong on Wednesday for CNBC.
The The Olympic torch was removed from the public streets of Osaka on Wednesday as the prefecture declared a state of emergency after coronavirus cases reached record highs.
“Yes, (the situation) in Osaka is particularly worrying,” said Kono, who is also the minister of regulatory reform. A new variant of the virus similar to the one first discovered in the UK is “spreading rapidly” in Osaka, he added.
“We’ve identified a similar mutation in Tokyo, so we’re worried (that) Tokyo could follow Osaka in a few weeks. So we really need to pay attention to the situation,” he said.
A man in a protective mask stands behind the Olympic symbols of the five intertwined rings in the picture near the National Stadium in Tokyo.
James Matsumoto, SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
The Summer Olympics should officially start in Tokyo on July 23, after just over 100 days. They were delayed last year due to a coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Games will be significantly reduced compared to previous years, as well international viewers are banned since entering the country due to concerns about Covid-19.
“Well, unfortunately, we may not have that many spectators watching the game at the stadium, but most people will watch it on television anyway,” Kono said.
Japan should vaccinate senior citizens of the country from Monday, moving to the next phase of the introduction of the vaccine, which is difficult delays in vaccine delivery.
According to Kon, less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated so far – but he hopes the vaccination will start in mid-May when vaccines from the European Union arrive.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to develop a vaccine in the country and we have to rely on imports of (that) vaccine coming from the EU,” Kono said. “We are currently authorized Pfizer vaccine and will begin for senior citizens next Monday. “
He said the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca it will be “very important” because it will be produced in Japan, which would interrupt some negotiations.
His interview took place hours before drug regulators in the EU and the UK announced this on Wednesday there may be a possible link between the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and rare blood clotting problems. Both regulators, however, pointed out that the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks.
“The biggest headache for me is going through EU transparency mechanism, “ Kono said, referring to the measure that allows EU Member States to impose restrictions on vaccine exports.
“If we have (a) a home-made vaccine or a home-made vaccine … more than half of my headache (would disappear),” he said.
Asked if his actions with the outbreak of the Japanese coronavirus could affect his chances of being the next prime minister, Kono was repulsive.
“My job is to bring the vaccine to Japan from Europe and (to) vaccinate as many people as possible,” he said. “You don’t have to think about the prime minister’s position. You just have to do your job, to protect (people’s) lives.”