Tokyo Olympics: US health experts say current plans are not informed by ‘best scientific evidence’

The researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday that they recommend that the World Health Organization “immediately convene an emergency committee” to advise on a risk management approach for the Tokyo Olympics.

Current plans to conduct the Olympics “are not informed by the best scientific evidence,” the researchers wrote, calling for changes.

“I would give them a chance right now. I think we all want the good news from the Olympics,” Osterholm told CNN’s John Berman Wednesday morning, when asked if he would cancel the Games.

“I don’t think anyone at this point would want that torch on and see us pull ourselves together, but I think the approach they’re taking right now is practically dangerous if they don’t change a lot of things. what recommendations they have and how they will protect athletes and their support team members, ”Osterholm said. “I think it’s a real challenge.”

The growing concern comes about a week after Japanese medics called for the Games to be canceled as the outbreak worsened in the country.
The US State Department on Monday urged citizens to avoid travel to Japan, but officials insist this will not complicate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics in a few weeks. And on Wednesday local time, Asahi Shimbun, a leading newspaper in Japan that sponsors the July Olympics, ran an op-ed calling for the event to be canceled.

“ Not informed of the best scientific evidence ”

Due to the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee postponed the Tokyo Olympics last year and postponed the event for this summer – starting July 23.
In Games preparation, the IOC has included various Covid-19 countermeasures in official playbooks, which involve daily Covid-19 testing, traveling only in dedicated vehicles and designating specific places to eat, among other measures.
“The Playbooks were developed on the basis of science, benefiting from the lessons learned during the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to a joint statement made in April by the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Government of Japan.

The statement added that the manuals implement the wearing of masks, personal hygiene, physical distancing and draw inspiration from hundreds of other sporting events that took place during the pandemic, “which were carried out safely , with minimal risk to participants and the local population “.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, Osterholm and his co-authors wrote that the playbooks could include more frequent Covid-19 testing and they pointed out that temperature control plans could miss pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic cases.

“In the absence of regular testing, participants can become infected during the Olympics and pose a risk when they return home to more than 200 countries,” they wrote.

“We believe that the IOC’s determination to proceed to the Olympic Games is not based on the best scientific evidence,” the researchers wrote. “The playbooks argue that athletes participate at their own risk, while failing both to distinguish between the different levels of risk athletes face and to recognize the limitations of measures such as temperature tests and face masks.”

The researchers noted that the IOC playbooks should classify various sporting events as low, moderate or high risk depending on the activity. For example, an outdoor sport where competitors are naturally spaced, such as archery or horse riding, might be considered low risk while indoor contact sports, such as boxing or wrestling, may be considered low risk. could be considered high risk.

Vaccine maker donates Covid-19 vaccines

As another security measure, the CIO announced in early May that companies Pfizer and BioNTech offered to provide additional doses of their coronavirus vaccine to teams heading to the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.
Tokyo Olympics can be delivered 'safely and securely', says World Athletics President Seb Coe
“This vaccine donation is another tool in our measurement toolkit to help make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games safe and secure for all participants, and to show our solidarity with our kind Japanese hosts,” said IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release may’s beginning.

“We invite athletes and participating delegations to the next Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and to accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he added in part.

In Japan, where the Olympic Games will be held, less than 5% of the population is vaccinated, the researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. They added that not all athletes competing in the Olympics might be able to get the vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech have offered to give vaccines to all Olympic athletes, but this offer does not guarantee that all athletes will receive vaccines before the Olympics, as vaccine authorization and availability is lacking in more than 100 countries “the researchers wrote. “Although several countries have vaccinated their athletes, adolescents aged 15 to 17 cannot be vaccinated in most countries, and children under 15 can be vaccinated in even fewer countries.”

They also noted in the article that the coronavirus variants, which may be more transmissible than the original strain, circulate widely, posing risks.

Tokyo doctors want the Games canceled

A large group of Japanese doctors have called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled, fearing the influx of people will worsen an already worsening epidemic in the country. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association warned earlier this month that the country’s healthcare system could not meet the medical needs of thousands of athletes, coaches and the press in addition to the current surge in Covid cases. -19.

The group raised its concerns in a letter to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Games Minister Tamayo Marukawa, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Japanese Olympic Committee President Seiko Hashimoto.

The Tokyo Physicians Association includes approximately 6,000 physicians in Tokyo.

“We urge the authorities to convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that the holding of the Olympic Games is difficult and to obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” the doctors wrote in the letter dated 14 May. The letter was sent a few days later the national union of physicians in Japan also urged the government to cancel the Games.

“The most important priority now is to fight COVID-19 and secure people’s lives and livelihoods,” the letter said. “The virus is spread with the movement of people. Japan will bear a great responsibility if the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games contributes to the spread of COVID-19 and increases the number of victims and deaths.”

CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Hong Kong, Selina Wang in Tokyo, and Mai Nishiyama contributed to this report.

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