TOKYO (JAPAN) – Adding to the already mounting challenges, Tokyo games organisers are currently facing a fresh issue. A Japanese medical association has stated that doctors and nurses fighting the novel coronavirus will not have the time to volunteer to help at the Olympics.
Doctors and nurses were under too much strain dealing with a third wave of the pandemic to even consider signing up for the Olympics, said the director of the Tokyo Medical Association, which represents 20,000 doctors from dozens of smaller medical groups.
“No matter how I look at it, it’s impossible,” said Satoru Arai, whose association was asked to secure more than 3,500 medical staff for the event by both the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government last March.
“I’m hearing doctors who initially signed up to volunteer say there’s no way they can take time off to help when their hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” Arai told this week, he added that he cannot push for volunteers atnot bring himself to push for volunteers at such a critical time.
The Games had to be postponed from last July and August as the coronavirus spread around the world and are now scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8.
As part of the preparations, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto told parliament last week the government had a plan to secure about 10,000 medical personnel for the Games.
Arai said an Olympics without spectators would relieve most of the burden of providing doctors and his association believed that’s how it should be organised. However, organisers are not ready to contemplate possibility of a Games without fans.
While organisers have suggested payment for volunteering doctors, Arai said it was not about the money.
That would mark a departure from what has become common practice at recent Olympics, with medical staff coming forward as unpaid volunteers.
But His concern is simply that doctors would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and vaccinations through the summer.
Tokyo Games organisers and the International Olympic Committee will hold a briefing on COVID-19 measures at 0900 GMT, at which officials are expected to affirm their commitment to holding the Olympics in Tokyo this July.
Arai said his association had not received any details about plans.
“We got worried and reached out to the Olympic organising committee at the end of last year, asking what the plan was,” he said. “But we still haven’t heard anything.”
As of last Wednesday, 73% of beds available in Tokyo for COVID-19 patients were full, with 2,933 people.
The government is determined to hold the showcase event, partly to herald what it hopes will be the end of the pandemic.