The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which represents 6,000 primary care doctors, has recommended that the 2021 Olympics be canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
Hospitals in the Games host city "have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" amid a surge in infections, the group stated in a May 14 open letter to prime minister Yoshihide Suga first appearing on the group's website this week, according to Reuters.
"We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC [International Olympic Committee] that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games," the letter states.
The recommendation comes with only 3.5 percent of Japan's population vaccinated. And while the country so far has avoided an explosive outbreak, a jump in infections has stoked alarm amid a shortage of medical staff and hospital beds in some areas of the Japanese capital, promoting the government to extend a third state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures until May 31, Reuters reported. If the Olympics contributed to a rise in deaths "Japan will bear the maximum responsibility", the doctors added.
Suga has maintained that Japan can host "a safe and secure Olympics" while following appropriate COVID-19 protocols, including testing measures. But others don't share his optimism. Sports Illustrated, citing The Asahi Shimbun national newspaper in Japan, reported that a nationwide survey released Monday indicated 83 percent of respondents said the Olympics should be postponed or canceled, while only 14 percent of respondents believe the Olympics should be held in Tokyo this summer. In addition, a petition effort called "Stop Tokyo Olympics" had gathered 350,000 signatures by Friday, when it was shared with local organizers and the IOC, according to the Associated Press.
IOC president Thomas Bach said last week that the Olympics will be a "safe and secure" event despite the surging COVID-19 cases, and that 80 percent of athletes will be vaccinated.