Ahead of the Olympics, Japan’s vaccine minister says he fears a virus uptick in Tokyo

Japan is working intently with the International Olympic Committee to organize for the Games and regardless of considerations about Covid-19 circumstances flaring, there aren’t any plans to postpone, mentioned Japan’s minister in cost of vaccinations.

“Unless they decide otherwise, we just simply need to prepare for the Games, how to control the situation. I think it changes almost every day, so they need to be prepared for that. But I don’t think they are thinking about postponing it,” Taro Kono informed CNBC’s Martin Soong on Wednesday.

The Olympic torch was taken off the public streets of Osaka on Wednesday as the prefecture declared a state of emergency after coronavirus circumstances reached report highs.

“Yes, (the) situation in Osaka is especially worrying,” mentioned Kono, who can be minister of regulatory reform. A brand new virus variant much like the one first found in the U.Okay. is “quickly spreading” in Osaka, he added.

“We have identified a similar mutation in Tokyo, so we are worried (that) Tokyo may follow Osaka in a couple of weeks. So we really need to be paying attention to the situation,” he mentioned.

A person carrying a face masks stands behind the Olympic symbols of the 5 interlaced rings pictured close to the National Stadium in Tokyo.

James Matsumoto, SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Osaka’s inhabitants is way smaller than Tokyo’s, however the metropolis reported 878 new cases on April 7, in comparison with 555 in Tokyo on the same day.

The Summer Olympics are because of kick off formally in Tokyo on July 23, a little greater than 100 days away. They have been delayed final 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, the Games might be very a lot scaled again in comparison with earlier years, as international spectators have been barred from getting into the nation because of considerations about over Covid-19.

“Well, unfortunately, we may not have so many spectators watching the game at the stadium but most of the people are going to be watching on television anyway,” Kono mentioned.

Delays in Japan’s vaccine rollout

Japan is ready to vaccinate the nation’s senior residents from Monday, transferring into the subsequent stage of its vaccine rollout that has been hampered by delays in vaccine deliveries.

Less than 1% of the inhabitants has been vaccinated to date, based on Kono — however he’s hopeful that inoculations will transfer into full swing in mid-May when vaccines from the European Union arrive.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to develop a vaccine domestically, and we need to rely on import of (the) vaccine coming from EU,” Kono mentioned. “Right now, now we have licensed the Pfizer vaccine and it will begin for the senior residents subsequent Monday.”

He mentioned the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca might be “very important” as a result of it’s going to be manufactured in Japan, which might lower out some negotiations.

His interview happened hours earlier than the medicine regulators in the EU and the U.K. announced Wednesday that there could possibly be a doable hyperlink between the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and uncommon blood clotting points. Both regulators, nonetheless, identified that the advantages of getting the vaccine nonetheless outweigh the dangers.

My job is to get the vaccine coming to Japan from Europe, and (to) get as many individuals as doable vaccinated.

Taro Kono

Japan’s vaccine minister

“The greatest headache for me is to undergo (the) EU transparency mechanism,” Kono mentioned, referring to a measure that allows European Union member states to impose restrictions on vaccine exports.

“If we have (a) domestic vaccine or domestically produced vaccine … more than half of my headache (would be) gone,” he mentioned.

Asked if his dealing with of Japan’s coronavirus outbreak may have an effect on his probabilities of being the subsequent prime minister, Kono was dismissive.

“My job is to get the vaccine coming to Japan from Europe, and (to) get as many people as possible vaccinated,” he mentioned. “You don’t have to think about the premiership. You just have to do your job, to protect the (lives) of the people.”

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