The head of Japan's Olympics organizing committee ruled out on Thursday another suspension of the Games, despite deep disquiet at the prospect of thousands of athletes and officials arriving during a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
Already postponed from last year at the cost of an extra $3.5 billion US, a scaled-down version of the Games, with no foreign spectators, is set to start on July 23.
But with a slow vaccine rollout, Tokyo and nine other regions under a state of emergency, and rising numbers of severe coronavirus cases, most Japanese oppose hosting the Olympics.
Illustrating the public anxiety, residents in one training venue, Ota City, were furious over a decision to give preferential vaccinations to staff attending to visiting Australian softball players, according to local media reports.
However, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto countered the gloom, telling the Nikkan Sports newspaper: "We cannot postpone again."
Hashimoto, who competed in seven summer and winter Olympics as a cyclist and skater, told the BBC that while Japanese were understandably worried, they should be reassured that a "bubble situation" was being carefully constructed.
"I believe that the possibility of these Games going on is 100 per cent that we will do this," she said. "One thing the organizing committee commits and promises to all the athletes out there is that we will defend and protect their health."
The nation's most senior medical adviser said on Thursday that public health guidance, including his, was not reaching the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in charge of the event.
"We are now considering where we should give our advice," Shigeru Omi told lawmakers. "If they want to hold [the Games], it's our job to tell them what the risks are."
Though Olympic advertisements are sprinkled around Tokyo, it is a far cry from the usual glitz and buzz, with many sponsors unsure how to proceed with events. Thousands of volunteers have quit also, public broadcaster NHK said this week.
Hashimoto acknowledged the sadness of having no outside spectators at an event that is normally an enormous global party.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they [athletes] can compete in the Games," she said in the BBC interview.
"To not be able to have family members and friends who have supported them all along must be a very painful thing and that has caused me pain too."
What's happening across Canada
As of early Thursday morning, Canada had reported 1,385,279 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 29,277 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,612. More than 24.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC's vaccine tracker.
In Atlantic Canada on Wednesday, health officials in both Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19. Nova Scotia, which began its reopening this week, also reported two additional deaths.
New Brunswick reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 and there were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
Quebec on Wednesday reported five additional deaths and 288 new cases of COVID-19.
In Ontario, health officials reported 733 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths on Wednesday. The update came just hours before Premier Doug Ford announced that students across the province would not be returning to classrooms this academic year.
"While no one wants kids back in school more than I do, as your premier, these aren't risks I'm willing to take," said Ford, who faced swift criticism over the decision from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and groups including the Children's Health Coalition, which includes major children's health organizations including Sick Kids Hospital.
"Children and youth have not been a priority in Ontario's pandemic response," a statement from the health coalition said. "Children must be a priority in the pandemic recovery — for the sake of their future and the sake of our province's future."
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths.
- Manitoba COVID-19 patient dies in Ontario hospital
- Alberta extends COVID-19 assistance to Manitoba, offering to take 10 intensive care patients
Manitoba health officials said they would be ramping up vaccination efforts as the number of people getting their first shot starts to plateau. Vans will be used as mobile clinics in some areas, and community clinics will be set up in areas where vaccine hesitancy is high, they said. In some rural areas south of Winnipeg, vaccination rates are less than half the provincial average.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 130 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death.
In Alberta, health officials reported 410 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
In British Columbia, health officials reported fewer than 200 cases of COVID-19 for the second day in a row.
What's happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 case-tracking tool showed more than 171.7 million cases had been reported around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.6 million, according to the database.
In the Americas, lack of effective political leadership has hampered efforts to stop the pandemic in Latin America, where infections are dangerously on the rise again, the Pan American Health Organization has said.
Pot-banging protests erupted across several cities in Brazil as President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the nation, just days after protesters took to the streets over his handling of the pandemic.
From free beer to free child care, President Joe Biden touted new efforts to get 70 per cent of U.S. adults at least one shot of vaccination against COVID-19 by the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
In Africa, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday he expects an update in the coming days from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the factory contamination issues that have delayed millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine around the world.
Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said he was in contact earlier Thursday with J&J officials, and they told him a visit by FDA regulators and an announcement regarding the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore was pushed back from Wednesday to Friday.
"Those are the exchanges I got from Johnson & Johnson," Nkengasong said on a conference call with reporters. "Let's wait until Friday or early next week and then we will have a fully comprehensive picture of what is going on."
The FDA shut down the Emergent BioSolutions factory, known as Bayview, in mid-April after it contaminated and ruined about 15 million doses of J&J's vaccine earlier this year. Emergent BioSolutions is one of the key contractors making J&J doses, and the move by U.S. regulators has led to supply chain problems in Europe and Africa.
In Europe, European Union governments have agreed to add Japan to a small list of countries from which they will allow non-essential travel, while holding off until at least mid-June for British tourists.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia's second-most populous state reported its lowest rise in new cases in more than a week on Thursday, a day after a snap lockdown in Melbourne was extended for another week.
In the Middle East, Kuwait has approved GSK and Vir Biotechnology's Sotrovimab as a treatment for coronavirus, state news KUNA reported.
With files from CBC News, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca