Japan insists Tokyo Olympics will go ahead despite growing protests amid slow vaccination drive

Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

With just 60 days to go until the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony, Japan is still in a state of emergency.

Just 4% of the population has had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine while doctors in Osaka warned on Monday that hospitals were close to collapse. They called for the Games to be scrapped as they tackle a new wave of infections that has left them running out of beds and ventilators.

Recent polls indicate that between 60-80% of people in Japan want the Games to be cancelled or postponed. Doctors have been leading many of the protests as they have seen a rise in cases of the UK virus variant and fear the Indian strain will come next.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is, however, determined, despite all of the above, that the show will go on.

Vice President, John Coates, sparked a backlash at the weekend for saying that even if the country remains in a state of emergency, the competition will not be called off again.

It was only on Monday that mass vaccination programmes were rolled out in Tokyo and Osaka. The country has lagged behind, first of all in securing vaccines, and then in finding enough trained staff to administer the shots.

'The government is putting the Olympics before lives'

Although these centres are capable of processing up to 10,000 people a day, it is expected that they will only complete over-65s by the time of the Opening Ceremony on 23 July.There is no way a country of 126 million could get close to herd immunity, or the level of vaccine cover seen in the UK, by the time the starting gun is due to be fired.

But the athletes are being promised a safe and secure Games. When they arrive in Japan they will essentially enter a bubble. They will be tested for Covid-19 everyday, even if they have been vaccinated, which has not been made mandatory.

A protest against the Games. Credit: ITV News

Hundreds of towns that were due to host national teams have pulled out, and others are still deciding. We spoke to an official from Yokohama, where they are due to host Team GB, and he told us that they are putting all the measures in place to give British athletes peace of mind before they arrive and ensure their safety while there. He said he did not anticipate that the Games would be cancelled.

Even though there is a state of emergency, and it is widely expected to be extended by another month until the end of June, the country is pressing ahead with the torch relay, and test events at many of the newly built venues.

Japan's vaccination programme has been slow to be rolled out. Credit: ITV News

Japan's second richest person, the founder of Softbank, Masayoshi Son, added his name to a growing number of people lobbying for the Games to be cancelled.

But as the country finally rolled out its vaccination programme, there was the suggestion from the Government that perhaps as the numbers protected against the virus rose, so will support for the event.

The torch for the Tokyo Olympics began in March. Credit: ITV News

At the weekend, we saw Britain’s track athletes continue apace with their preparations.

They need to make sure, come what may, they are ready to compete in what would certainly be a remarkable Olympic Games.