Protests in the streets of Tokyo against the president of the 2020 Games Yoshiro Mori.KIMIMASA MAYAMA / EFE
The celebration of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, scheduled for July 23 after being delayed last March due to the pandemic, continues in questioned. The difficulty of access to vaccines in half the world, the slow immunization in many countries and the threat of new variants of the virus put the viability of the Games on the ropes. The epidemiologists consulted agree that, currently, a sporting event of these characteristics "is a health risk."
"It is foolhardy to hold the Olympic Games in summer. There are athletes from all over the world, from a world not covered by vaccines and from countries where there is a black hole of information and we do not know what happens ”, alerts Alberto Infante, emeritus professor of International Health at the National School of Health of the Institute Health Carlos III. Jesús Molina Cabrillana, from the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene agrees: “Being an international event, I don't see it as feasible. It is very risky. ”
Japan , which has more than 400,000 infected and 6,700 deaths, has a cumulative incidence in 14 days of 29 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – that of Spain is 540 – but a sporting event of the magnitude of some Games Olympics implies a breeding ground for the virus. “Probably, even if the epidemiological situation improves, it will continue to be complicated. Each country will have a different situation regarding the virus, the circulation of the variants, the vaccination… It is complex due to the instability of the epidemic in different places. It would be safer to postpone it ”, says Antoni Trilla, head of Preventive Medicine at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona . Experts insist that it is very difficult to lower the risk of an event that requires mobilizing thousands of people from different countries and concentrating them in a single city for two weeks of competition.
”It is an extremely complex operation. You can make bubbles and tests, but those tests will only serve for the moment. With a very high incidence in many countries and where vaccination will arrive later, the possibility of sports delegations arriving and travel liberalization is low. There is no guarantee of anything, we are not going to be in safe conditions ", third Daniel López-Acuña, former director of Emergencies of the World Health Organization (WHO).
And for example, says Infante, what happened at the Australian Open tennis . After detecting several cases of the British variant of the virus at the airport, more contagious, the State of Victoria decreed a five-day confinement and, although the sports tournament continues, it will do so without an audience. “You only have to look at what happened in Australia to realize how delicate the situation is. And we are going to see how the most contagious variants that do not respond so well to the vaccine evolve. Everything is in a terrain of such a degree of uncertainty and logistical complexity that I think it is foolhardy to celebrate it, "says Infante.
Trilla admits that" any decision is very difficult to adapt to so many months ahead, "but advocates postponing a sporting event of these dimensions until there is more vaccinated population. If the Games were already postponed last summer, health uncertainty is still far from dissipating.