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Medical workers protest on Twitter over Tokyo Olympic organizers' request for 500 nurses

A nurse is seen preparing a coronavirus vaccine at a special nursing home in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

TOKYO -- A request from the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to the Japanese Nursing Association to set aside 500 nurses for the Tokyo Games this summer has sparked an online backlash from health care workers swamped with COVID-19 cases.

    On April 28, a hashtag in Japanese which roughly translates to "We can't have nurses dispatched to the Olympics" emerged on the trending list on Twitter in Japan, while opposition spread among medical professionals and others trying to handle the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Aichi Prefecture federation of Medical Worker's Unions held a "Twitter demonstration" from 2 p.m. on this day, and uploaded a series of posts saying, "Now is the time to focus on coronavirus countermeasures, not the Olympics," and "The medical front has reached its limit. We do not have staff to spare for the Olympics." It also introduced comments from nurses working on the scene, such as "We are not disposable pawns."

    The union of Osaka Prefectural Government employees and Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii also reacted to the online protest. The move has been spreading, and as of 6:30 p.m. on April 28, there were 44,125 tweets using the hashtag. It was the fourth most popular hashtag in Japan's trending list.

    The Tokyo Games organizing committee has estimated that around 10,000 health care workers are necessary to staff infirmaries at various venues and the athletes' village, among other places, while the games are being held. In a shift from its original plan of asking medical professionals -- excluding those in certain positions -- to cooperate as volunteers, the organizing committee is considering paying them to gain public understanding.

    (Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department)

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