Will the 3rd state of emergency and mass vaccination centers save Tokyo 2020?


The Tokyo 2020 Games are just over a months away, with the first day of the Olympic Games set for July 23rd. While the messages from politicians and leadership seem promising for those who support the games, there is still the lingering feeling of the unknown. With the 3rd state of emergency in Tokyo set to slowly ease on June 21st, it will be interesting to see if the effects it has had on the recent wave, coupled with the uptick in vaccination will be enough to save the games.

The third state of emergency began on April 29th in select prefectures across Japan, and was scheduled to go through Golden week; a Japanese national holiday that traditionally sees lots of travel domestically. While originally set to expire May 11th, we have seen the most recent “shutdown” extend to the 20th of June. This was a result of the most recent wave which began in late March and peaked in late April with over 5000 cases per day.

Recently we’ve seen the number of cases drop to about 1/3 of that as things like restaurants, gyms and hot springs remain under limited hours of operation. However these restrictions are rather light in comparison to that of some other countries, which closed essential infrastructure like schools completely. It seems that it’s on the general public to resist the urge to go out and about, rather than some strict laws being enforced. With the state of emergency ending in the upcoming week, the the question for organizers is, will this downward trend continue in time for the Tokyo 2020 Games?

It’s likely that restaurants will be open later and start serving alcohol once the state of emergency is lifted on the 20th. Other business who have had to limit business hours will also look to get busy again. People seem to be getting more tired of staying at home, and social distancing is seemingly at the back of many minds. So if the end of the 3rd state of emergency, like its predecessors also results in another wave, the government and Tokyo 2020 organizers will have to rely on mass vaccination so that enough of the population is seemingly protected by the start of the games.

Japan has really seen a major uptick in vaccination in the last two weeks. Japan was rather slow to get the process rolling as they were unable to develop their own vaccine domestically, thus having to rely on Pfizer and Moderna. This of course meant there was some waiting, and even when the doses finally arrived there was a delay which had many criticizing leadership.

But the outlook is looking much more positive now, with roughly 5 million people receiving their first shot in the past week alone. This is due to a few decisions made by the government. The most publicized is the mass vaccination centers that have been set up, which are said to be able to vaccinate up 10,000 people a day. These are primarily set up in the mega metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka. For most other areas, public facilities such as schools, community centers and hospitals are being used. Starting soon, companies will start vaccinating employees right at the office, so they don’t need to go out of their way to get to these packed facilities.

Apart from the vaccination sites becoming more readily available, those administering vaccinations themselves have also recently been bolstered. Unlike the United States, where volunteers are able to administer vaccines, here in Japan it is not allowed. The regulations on who can actually administer vaccines is rather strict and is usually reserved for only doctors and nurses. But the Japanese government decided to get others involved who have the ability and normally wouldn’t be allowed. They decided to allow both emergency medics and lab staffs to administer the vaccines, along with asking dentists who have obvious experience administering drugs to take part in Covid-19 vaccination efforts.

The government has outlined clear goals at which they will try to finish vaccination. Politicians have said that they hope to vaccinate all senior citizens by mid summer, seemingly right around the Tokyo 2020 Games. While it seems quite possible considering the current rate at which vaccination is occurring, it is definitely cutting it close. Suga also recently mentioned he wants to have the entire vaccination process completed by November, but that is of course with a positive outlook.

In terms of vaccination at the Tokyo Games themselves, there will be no shortage of supplies. BioNTech and Pfizer have said they will donate vaccines to the Games. Officials and workers are already prioritized with getting jabs and many different countries have said that they will vaccinate their athletes if they wish to do so. There has also been recent news about volunteers for the games being able to get the vaccine prior to the games. Yet notifications haven’t seemingly been sent out.

Ultimately time will tell what the outcome of all this will be, and it seems at this point the government is determined to push through and rely on recent positive signs as an indicator to go ahead. Are the Tokyo 2020 Games worth the pain and suffering of the people in Japan? Of course not, but if the government thinks it can do so in a safe environment, the games will go on despite public opinion.

If you wish to reach me, you can message me at Shotarohmoore@hotmail.com

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com