TOKYO: Japan’s top medical adviser blasted International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Wednesday (Aug 25) for visiting Tokyo again when the country is expanding emergency curbs to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan is set later on Wednesday to expand states of emergency to eight more prefectures, taking the total to 21 regions from Hokkaido in the north to the southern island of Okinawa under curbs and covering nearly 80 per cent of its population.
The unusually blunt statement from a Japanese official underscores the frustration felt by many as the government grapples to bring infections under control. Citizens are growing weary of life under restrictions and companies are ignoring repeated requests to promote work-from-home.
“We had said over and over: ‘What kind of message will the Olympics send to the public?'” Dr Shigeru Omi, the immunologist who chairs the government’s coronavirus advisory panel that approved the emergency plan, said in a parliamentary session.
“We’re asking people to work from home more. If (IOC) President Bach needs to give a speech (for the Paralympics), why couldn’t he do it remotely? Why does he have to bother coming all the way here?” Omi said, drawing applause from a few lawmakers for his remarks.
“That kind of plain, common sense should function under these circumstances,” he said.
Bach attended the Paralympics’ opening ceremony on Tuesday. The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by email.
Omi voiced strong concerns about holding the 2020 Games, while others in the medical community opposed them. He warned that infections could spread as the public interpreted hosting the Games as a sign that it was safe enough to go about their normal activities.
Nomura Research Institute executive economist Takahide Kiuchi estimated the latest state-of-emergency expansion would lead to an additional economic loss of about ¥420 billion (US$3.83 billion), bringing the total fallout from Japan’s fourth round of emergency curbs to ¥3.84 trillion.
That dwarfs the ¥1.68 trillion boost the economy was expected to see from holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games, he estimated.