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Tokyo Olympic delegates from developing countries could take virus home: Gov't adviser

Shigeru Omi, head of the Japanese government's coronavirus countermeasures subcommittee, answers questions by Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Sakura Uchikoshi at the National Diet in Tokyo on June 3, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Holding the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games during the coronavirus pandemic runs the risk of delegates from developing countries taking the pathogen back to their home nations once the games are over, the Japanese government's top coronavirus advisor has warned.

    Shigeru Omi, head of the Japanese government's coronavirus countermeasures subcommittee, highlighted the risk on June 3 when responding to Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Sakura Uchikoshi at the House of Councillors Committee on Health, Welfare and Labor.

    He said, "It may be transferred to developing countries with very vulnerable medical and testing systems." He apparently is concerned that athletes and other delegates who get infected in Japan will spread the coronavirus in their home countries after the games.

    Additionally, because there is a risk of the further spread of infections due to a rise in outside activity in areas outside competition spaces, Omi said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has "a responsibility to make maximum efforts," and demanded it take measures including scaling down the games. He also emphasized that, if the games are to be held during the pandemic, "both the IOC and the central government need to be thoroughly prepared."

    The subcommittee's experts are preparing to make proposals on spread risks from the games. Omi also revealed that he is trying to find a way to submit the proposals to the IOC, saying, "Even if we speak to the government, it would be meaningless if (our message) does not reach the IOC."

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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