Keeping track of Olympic medals won? In Japan, many people are focused on another count.
At midpoint of the “safe and secure” Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. The development is overshadowing the Olympics and adding to doubts over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
According to government reports, coronavirus infections are surging at an unprecedented pace. Nationwide, new cases hit 14,200, a record high in Japan; Tokyo reported a record 4,166 new cases on Wednesday August 4.
While the IOC, local Olympic organizers and the Japanese government have said there is no link between the Games and the spike in cases, some public health officials believe hosting the Games has affected public sentiment and eroded support for the government’s requests for people to stay home and watch the Olympics on TV.
Polls have shown many Japanese people opposed to holding the Olympics while the country lagged in efforts to contain the pandemic and vaccinate the population –– inadequate testing; multiple, inconsistent “state of emergency” declarations with weak enforcement power; a late and slow vaccination rollout; insufficient vaccine supplies; and poor public communication.
Significant vaccination hesitancy due to health concerns, heightened by widely disseminated vaccine mis-information, is another barrier to efforts to successfully combat the pandemic.
Political interests may also play a role. The increase in new cases is another setback for Japan’s Prime Minister Suga who has seen support plunge over his handling of the pandemic ahead of general elections to be held this year.