They’re definitely not ready now. The Japanese government just announced it would extend an already-standing state of emergency through May 31 following a large spike in COVID-19 cases. After “Golden Week,” a sequence of Japanese Holidays lasting from late April to early May, Tokyo reported 907 new cases for the week. (New York City reported 985 cases just on May 7, for comparison.) A variant called N501Y has caused recent surges in cases, like in Osaka where hospitals struggled to treat the influx. N501Y is more infectious, and it has been correlated with more serious cases.
This surge comes as Japan struggles to roll out vaccinations. According to Our World in Data, as of May 6, 2.44% of the country’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. (In the United States, around 57% of the population has received at least one dose as of May 8.) So far, Japan has only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use, though it may approve the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines by May 20. Pfizer has also announced that the company will donate vaccines to athletes and staff, and the International Olympic Committee has said, “It is expected that a significant proportion of Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan.”
An online campaign called Stop Tokyo Olympics has gained more than 200,000 signatures to an online petition, per Reuters. A Japanese poll in January showed that 80% of respondents said the games should be postponed or cancelled, and this trend has held true since.
Japan has been extremely successful in controlling the pandemic so far, but that has also led to a lack in urgency in vaccinating the population, and again, surges have happened. The Olympics are very difficult to do in an NBA-like bubble. The scale of the Olympics is much larger, and with case counts across the world as high as they are, it’s hard to imagine that someone won’t come down with COVID-19 during the games. As the New York Times points out, the chances of a COVID-19 free Olympics are slim—instead, the priority will be controlling cases as they come up.
Officials have repeatedly insisted that the games will go on as planned, and there is no sign that they will be cancelled or postponed. Will this current state of emergency crush the curve enough? We won’t know until July.
More international data
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- 25 million doses is a drop in the global vaccination bucketOn Thursday, the Biden administration made a big (and long-awaited) announcement: the federal government is sending 25 million vaccine doses from America’s stockpile to other countries.25 million doses—or even the 80 million doses that the administration has promised by the end of this month—is a drop in the bucket compared to actual international needs. For example: COVAX needs 1.8 billion doses to vaccinate about half the adult population in low-income countries. COVAX has specifically prioritized 92 low-income nations, representing a total population of 3.8 billion.
- How violence in Israel and Palestine is impacting COVID-19 ratesIn the past couple of weeks, violence in Palestine has shut down hospitals and prevented vaccine deliveries. Unvaccinated people have crowded into shelters in Gaza, while all testing and vaccination efforts have stalled.
- The 2021 Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23. Will Japan be ready?Is Japan ready to host the Olympics in July? They’re definitely not ready now. The Japanese government just announced it would extend an already-standing state of emergency through May 31 following a large spike in COVID-19 cases. After “Golden Week,” a sequence of Japanese Holidays lasting from late April to early May, Tokyo reported 907 new cases for the week.
- In India’s COVID-19 catastrophe, figures are only part of the storyIndia’s COVID-19 curve resembles a vertical line right now. An already fragile health infrastructure is on its knees, the government has shown itself to be incapable. There are no hospital beds to be had, no medicines, no oxygen, no emergency care; even the dead have to endure 20-hour queues for last rites. A nine-day streak of 300,000-plus new cases daily has ended with fresh infections crossing the 400,000 mark on May 1. More than 3,000 COVID-related deaths have been recorded daily for three consecutive days. Still, the worst, experts say, is yet to come.