Japan is working closely with the International Olympic Committee to prepare for the competition, and despite concerns about the widespread COVID-19 case, it has no plans to postpone it, Japan’s minister responsible for vaccination said.
“Unless they decide otherwise, we just have to prepare for the game, the way to control the situation, I think it changes almost every day, so they have to be prepared for that. But I don’t think they’re thinking of postponing it, ”Taro Kono told CNBC̵7;s Martin Soong on Wednesday.
The Olympic torch was removed from a public road in Osaka on Wednesday as the prefecture declared a state of emergency after a record high of coronavirus cases.
“Yes (the situation) in Osaka is of particular concern,” said Kono, who is the minister of regulatory reform. A new virus, similar to the one first discovered in the UK, is It “spread rapidly” in Osaka, he added.
“We found a similar mutation in Tokyo, so we were worried (that) Tokyo might follow Osaka in a few weeks, so we really need to pay attention to the situation,” he said.
A man wearing a mask stands behind the Olympic symbols of the five rings near the National Stadium in Tokyo.
James Matsumoto, SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
Osaka’s population is much smaller than Tokyo. But the city reported 878 new cases on April 7, compared with 555 in Tokyo on the same day.
The Summer Olympics are officially scheduled to start in Tokyo on July 23, less than 100 days away last year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Still, the competition will shrink significantly compared to previous years as international audiences are banned from entering the country due to concerns about COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, we may not have a large audience watching games on the pitch. But most people would watch it on television, ”Kono said.
Delays in launching Japan’s vaccine
Japan is scheduled to give vaccinations to the country’s seniors from Monday, which is entering the next phase of the vaccine rollout, which has been hit by delays in vaccine deliveries.
So far less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated, according to Kono – but he hopes the vaccine will go into mid-May when the EU vaccine arrives.
“Unfortunately, we cannot develop vaccines in the country and we need to rely on imported vaccines coming from the EU,” Kono said. “We have now authorized Pfizer vaccinations and will start for seniors next Monday. “
He said the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca would be “very important” because it was going to be made in Japan, which would cut some negotiations.
His interview came hours before drug regulators in the European Union and Britain announced Wednesday that there could be a possible link between the vaccine. AstraZeneca-Oxford With rare blood clotting problems However, both regulators point out that the benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh the risks.
“The most heartbreaking thing for me is getting through. (EU transparency mechanism), ”Kono said, referring to measures allowing EU member states to impose restrictions on vaccine exports.
“If we had (a) a domestic vaccine or a domestically made vaccine… more than half of my headache would be gone,” he said.
Asked if Japan’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic might affect his chances of becoming the next prime minister, Kono was not interested.
“My job is to get vaccines coming from Japan, from Europe, and (to) vaccinate as many people as possible,” he said. ) Of the people “