WHO leader says virus risk inevitable at Tokyo Olympics
The Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by the tally of COVID-19 cases that arise because eliminating risk is impossible, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told sports officials on Wednesday as events began in Japan. "How infections are handled is what matters most," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech to an International Olympic Committee meeting.
Seventy-nine games-linked COVID-19 cases reported till now
"The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible, and onward transmission is interrupted," he said. The number of Games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month was 79 on Wednesday, with more international athletes testing COVID-19 positive at home and unable to travel.
Closed contacts of infected athletes can continue training under isolation
"The mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases," Ghebreyesus said, noting the athletes who already tested positive in Japan, including at the athletes' village in Tokyo Bay, where most of the 11,000 competitors will stay. Teammates classed as close contacts of infected athletes can continue training and preparing for events under a regime of isolation and extra monitoring.
Health experts have warned of Olympics becoming a super-spreader event
Health experts in Japan have warned of the Olympics becoming a super-spreader event bringing tens of thousands of athletes, officials, and workers during a local state of emergency. "There is no zero risk in life. Japan was giving courage to the whole world," Ghebreyesus said.
Pandemic is a test and the world is failing: Ghebreyesus
The WHO leader also had a more critical message and a challenge for leaders of richer countries about sharing vaccines more fairly in the world. "The pandemic is a test and the world is failing," Ghebreyesus said, predicting more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 worldwide before the Olympic flame goes out in Tokyo on August 8.
He also called out injustice in vaccine distribution
"It was a horrifying injustice that 75 percent of vaccines delivered globally so far were in only 10 countries," he said. Ghebreyesus warned anyone who believed COVID-19 was over because it was under control in their part of the world lived in a fool's paradise.
World needs to produce 11 billion doses next year: Ghebreyesus
The world needs to produce 11 billion doses next year and the WHO wanted governments to help reach a target of vaccinating 70 percent of people in every country by the middle of next year. "The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It is in our hands," the WHO leader said.