Aussies caught up in Tokyo vaccine rollout

·2-min read

Australia's softballers have been caught up in the COVID-19 vaccination furore in Japan, as doubts continue to swirl over hosting an Olympics during the pandemic.

The government of Ota City has reportedly been inundated with complaints by residents over a decision to give preferential vaccinations to city and hotel staff tending to the Australian athletes.

The city, about 80km northwest of Tokyo, is the site of a training camp for Australia's softball squad, which this week became the first national team to arrive in Japan.

Japan is battling a fourth wave of COVID-19 eight weeks out from the scheduled start of the Games, but the country's vaccine rollout has been slow and 10 regions including Tokyo are under a state of emergency until June 20.

While Japan has avoided the large-scale infections suffered by many other nations, severe cases are rising in the latest outbreak. More than 746,000 cases have been recorded with more than 13,000 deaths.

With the virus still rampant, host cities and medical professionals are questioning whether a safe event can be held.

Public opinion polls in Japan have consistently shown a majority want the Games cancelled or put off yet again after being delayed by one year because of the coronavirus.

A majority of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly feel the same way, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper reported on Thursday.

But president of the Tokyo Games organising committee Seiko Hashimoto ruled out a cancellation or further postponement of the Olympics.

"We cannot postpone again," athlete-turned-politician and organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said an interview published on Thursday by the Nikkan Sports newspaper.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to call a snap election after the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Asahi newspaper reported, showing his resolve to push ahead with the event.

Towns and cities lined up to host Olympic training or events have increasingly expressed resistance, amid concern visitors will spread variant strains of the virus and drain medical resources.

Kurume City in the southern prefecture of Fukuoka pulled out of hosting Kenya's pre-Olympics training camp, the African nation's Olympics committee said on Wednesday.

Shigeru Omi, Japan's top medical adviser, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday it was "not normal" to host the Olympics amid the current state of infections.

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