The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are set for just months from now, but one Japanese hospital is begging for the nation to cancel the big event.
“Medical capacity has reached its limits. Stop the Olympics!” and “Give us a break. The Olympics are impossible!” read signs posted in the windows of Tachikawa Sogo Hospital in Tokyo recently.
Explaining the reason, the head of the hospital, Takahashi Masaya, wrote a lengthy post on the private hospital's website dated May 10 that, "we have no choice but to oppose the hosting of the Olympic Games, which has the potential to spread the infection."
Takahashi also tells of how, to prevent infections in the hospital, staff members had made sacrifices in their private lives for a year during the pandemic, and that he spoke out because he could afford to as the operator of a private hospital vs. a public one.
The signs were first reported on by the Asahi Shimbun by staff writer Chiaki Ogihara. A photo in the newspaper showed a massive sign written in Japanese in the windows of the city hospital.
The Asahi reports that the Tachikawa Sogo Hospital has been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, as the disease makes a comeback in the archipelago.
"The last straw came when he heard the government was calling for doctors and nurses to volunteer for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics," reads the Asahi.
“It pains me to do this whenever I think of athletes making unimaginable efforts and Olympic staff working hard to hold it,” Takahashi said, according to the newspaper. The signs were put up on April 30.
The games are slated to start July 23. The event is planned to be held without allowing spectators from outside Japan. That plan was urged by some experts earlier in the year, who told TheStreet that hosting the games could increase risk of expanding the coronavirus outbreak there if fans from overseas were allowed to attend. And Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and partner BioNTech (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report has said it's working with the International Olympic Committee to donate vaccines to help get the shots into the arms of athletes competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But Japan is seeing a surge in cases, despite being less affected by the pandemic than other nations such as the U.S., U.K., India, Brazil, and much of Europe. Now in its "fourth wave," Japan is seeing cities like Osaka and Tokyo and even smaller ones like Ehime get hit hard, despite rolling out vaccines earlier this year.
The nation has seen a total of more than 642,000 diagnoses of COVID-19, and around 11,000 deaths. But a new analysis claims that the number of COVID deaths in Japan could be more than ten times higher than reported. A report by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that more than 108,000 Japanese have actually died so far from the disease.
Whatever the true numbers, Tokyo is at daily highs, with over 1,000 new cases officially reported on May 9.
Japanese hospitals like the Tachikawa Sogo Hospital, which has 287 beds and 90 doctors, are now seeing an influx of COVID patients.
This story has been updated with minor corrections.