Several countries, including Israel and Denmark, said on Wednesday they would vaccinate their athletes and staff against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, amid global debate over whether athletes should be given priority access in the rollout.
Global coronavirus cases surpassed 100 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, as countries around the world struggle with new virus variants and vaccine shortfalls.
Israel, which currently leads the world on per capita vaccinations, said it had already inoculated half its Olympic athletes delegation.
“By the end of May 2021, all… will be completely vaccinated against the coronavirus,” a spokeswoman from the Israel Olympic Committee told Reuters in an email.
Denmark’s chef de mission Soren Simonsen said “approximately 150 athletes and 200 officials” would get the vaccine.
“In Denmark, the government will start vaccinating normal healthy people in April, so that is the earliest time slot,” Simonsen said. “The Danish people should all have a vaccine by approximately July 1.”
Hungary’s National Olympic Committee also said its athletes would be vaccinated “in a few weeks”.
The Belgian Olympic Committee (BOIC) has asked its government for “400 to 500” vaccines for Olympic athletes and their entourage to travel to the Tokyo Games, but insists it is not asking for preferential treatment.
“The intention is not to pre-empt healthcare workers and vulnerable groups, but we want to protect our athletes,” Johan Bellemans, chief physician of the BOIC told Belgium’s Sporza TV.
“But we are not asking for preferential treatment… Obviously, we don’t want our athletes to be at a competitive disadvantage.”
Much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, but organisers have vowed to press ahead with the Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the pandemic.
Japan government dismisses reports of Olympics cancellation
Japan’s government on Sunday dismissed suggestions that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics scheduled for this summer could be cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have decided the venues and schedule, and the people involved are working on preparations, including infection control,” the Kyodo news agency quoted government spokesman Katsunobu Kato as saying.
The statement came after reports quoted Taro Kono, the minister for administrative and regulatory reform, as saying that “anything can happen” and “it could go either way” with the Games postponed from last year.
The government, local organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said the Games are to go ahead amid a strict hygiene and safety concept.
But doubts remain as a state of emergency has been declared for the Tokyo region amid rising numbers of coronavirus infections.
A recent survey has also said 80 per cent of Japanese believed the Games would be postponed or cancelled again.
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