TOKYO: Some nurses in Japan are furious at the Tokyo Olympics organizers’ request to send 500 of them to help with the games. They say they are already near the breaking point in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Olympic officials have said they would need 10,000 medical workers to staff the games, and demand for more nurses comes amid another virus spike with Tokyo and Osaka under states of emergency .
“Beyond the anger, I was stunned by the callousness,” Mikito Ikeda, a nurse in Nagoya, central Japan, told The Associated Press. “It shows how lightly human life is.”
The call for more nurses is typical of the impromptu changes that occur almost daily as organizers and the International Olympic Committee attempt to host the games amid a pandemic.
The Olympics are expected to open in just under three months, which will bring into Japan – where international borders have been virtually sealed for a year – of 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and thousands of other officials, judges. , sponsors, media and broadcasters.
In a statement from the Japanese Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions, General Secretary Susumu Morita said the focus should be on the pandemic, not the Olympics.
“We must definitely stop the proposal to send these nurses, responsible for protecting the fight against the serious coronavirus pandemic, as Olympic volunteers,” said Morita.
“I am extremely exasperated by the insistence on continuing the Olympics despite the risk to the health and lives of patients and nurses.”
A protest message saying nurses were against hosting the Olympics recently went viral on Japanese Twitter, retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.
Even before the pandemic, Japanese nurses were overworked and poorly paid compared to their counterparts in the United States or Britain.
Nursing is not only physically taxing, but also emotionally draining, said Ikeda, who has been a nurse for 10 years. He said many nurses feared they could be infected themselves, with vaccination rates in Japan reported at just 1 to 2 percent.
“It’s hard for any hospital to go without a single nurse, and they want 500,” Ikeda said. “Why do they think it’s even possible?”
Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Japan have just exceeded 10,000.
The British Medical Journal said last month that Japan should “reconsider” holding the Olympics, arguing that “international mass gatherings … are still neither safe nor secure”.
Haruo Ozaki, president of the Tokyo Medical Association, said it would be “extremely difficult” to host the Olympics because of the new variations that are spreading.
He also explained that the Japanese medical community has been called upon during the treatment of patients with coronavirus and the deployment of the vaccine.
“We’ve heard enough of the spiritual argument about wanting the games,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to organize matches without increasing infections, both inside and outside of Japan.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has suggested nurses who quit their jobs could help out at the Olympics, though some quits are linked to the stressful work of coronavirus patients.
“I hear a lot of people are taking time off, so it should be possible,” Suga said last week, in a widely criticized remark.
Athletes will operate in a “bubble” at the Olympics, housed in the Athletes’ Village on Tokyo Bay, and travel in designated buses to venues and training areas. Hundreds of rooms would also be installed outside the village to accommodate the sick.
The organizers will demand daily tests for the athletes and other participants, a crucial task for the medical staff. This also contrasts with the little testing done for the Japanese public.
Public opinion polls show that up to 80% of Japanese want the Olympics to be canceled or postponed again. Much of the bill for hosting the Olympics, officially estimated at $ 15.4 billion, if on Japanese taxpayers.
“The situation is extremely serious,” opposition MP Tomoko Tamura said recently. “The nurses don’t know how they can deal with this situation. It is physically impossible. “
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