Olympic staff, volunteers vaccinated as Tokyo Games near
Thousands of Olympic volunteers and officials began receiving vaccines in Tokyo on Friday, five weeks before the Games, as experts warned it would be safest to hold the event without fans, AFP reports.
With just over a month until the July 23 opening ceremony, organisers are in the home stretch and scrambling to finalise virus rules and get participants vaccinated in time.
They also face a controversial and difficult decision over how many domestic fans, if any, will be in the stands for the pandemic-postponed Games.
Japanese Olympic athletes have already begun receiving vaccines, and the rollout expanded on Friday to Olympic staff, volunteers and others who will interact with overseas participants.
The International Olympic Committee has donated enough Pfizer/BioNTech doses for 40,000 people, including airport staff, local media and Olympic referees.
The jabs are separate from those being used in Japan's national vaccine rollout, which began slowly but has picked up pace lately, with over six percent of the population now fully inoculated.
The vaccinations come as organisers work to convince a sceptical public that the biggest international event since the pandemic began will be safe.
This week they have rolled out new virus rulebooks, warning athletes they could be barred from the Games if they violate regulations on mask-wearing or daily testing.
But they face a difficult decision over whether to allow spectators into the stands, with a group of leading medical experts who advise the government saying Friday a closed-door Games would be safest.
"Having no spectators would create the least risk in terms of the spread of infections inside venues, so we think this would be ideal," they wrote in a report submitted to Tokyo 2020 organisers and the government.
- 'Stricter standards' -
The number of fans at the Games will be limited by government virus measures, which in Tokyo currently cap spectators at 5,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is smaller.