With less than two months until the Tokyo Olympics begin, a group of US public health experts are among the latest to warn that pushing forward with the rescheduled 2020 Games puts athletes — and the public — at risk amid the pandemic.
The experts, including Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy among other scientists, call for “urgent action” to asstess the Covid-19 risks associated with the Games and the additional measures that could be put in place to mitigate those risks.
The researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday that they recommend the World Health Organization “immediately convene an emergency committee” to advise on a risk-management approach for the Tokyo Olympics.
The current plans to proceed with the Olympic Games are “not informed by the best scientific evidence,” the researchers wrote, calling for changes.
“I’d give them a chance right now. I think that we all want the good news of the Olympics,” Osterholm told CNN’s John Berman on Wednesday morning when asked if he would cancel the Games.
“I think no one at this point wouldn’t want to have that torch lit and to see us come back together, but I think that the approach they’re taking right now is virtually a dangerous one if they don’t change many of the recommendations they have and for how they’re going to protect athletes and their support team members,” Osterholm said. “I think this is a real challenge.”
The growing concern comes about a week after Japanese doctors called for the Games to be canceled amid a worsening outbreak in the country.
The US State Department on Monday urged citizens to avoid all travel to Japan, but officials insist it will not complicate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, now just weeks away. And on Wednesday local time, the Asahi Shimbun, a leading newspaper in Japan that is sponsoring the Olympic Games in July, published an editorial calling for the event to be canceled.