TOKYO. — Japanese doctors and nurses fighting the novel coronavirus will not have the time to volunteer to help at the Olympics, a medical association has said, raising another headache for organizers determined to hold the postponed Games.
The director of the Tokyo Medical Association, which represents 20,000 doctors from dozens of smaller medical groups, said doctors and nurses were under too much strain dealing with a third wave of the pandemic to even consider signing up for the Olympics.
“No matter how I look at it, it’s impossible,” said Satoru Arai, whose association was asked by both the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government last March to secure more than 3,500 medical staff for the event.
“I’m hearing doctors who initially signed up to volunteer say there’s no way they can take time off to help when their hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” Arai told Reuters this week, adding that he could not bring himself to push for volunteers at such a critical time.
The Games had to be postponed from last July and August as the coronavirus spread around the world and are now scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8.
But persistent clusters of infections in Japan have raised questions about the feasibility of holding the Games this year and eroded support for the extravaganza among a public nervous about athletes and spectators bringing in new cases.
New infections in Japan rose to new highs in early January, triggering a state of emergency in Tokyo and some other areas. The government extended the emergency in most of those places on Tuesday.