Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Preparations For 2021 Continue Against Backdrop Of Concern & Hope

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The Tokyo metropolitan government today reported 67 new coronavirus infections, the highest number of daily cases at the heart of Olympic City Tokyo 2020 since a state of emergency for the capital was lifted more than a month ago, according to city officials cited by local media.

The rise comes came amid growing concern over a second wave of infections in the capital and Olympic city after business and social restrictions were eased in stages but also coincides with hopeful signs in the development of a vaccine and remedies for COVID-19.

The figure topped 50 for the sixth straight day, bringing Tokyo’s cumulative total to nearly 6,300, Kyodo News reported. Many new infections have recently been reported among young people after visits to “nightlife establishments”.

In response, the metropolitan government has unveiled new criteria for its warning system: unlike the earlier “Tokyo alert” system, the new approach sets no numerical targets but relies on the vigilance and advice of medical experts and others on the metropolitan government’s “monitoring council” who will consider seven criteria, including  numbers of new patients, hospitalizations and the numbers of those in “serious condition”.

Vaccines and Remedies & Their Impact On Tokyo 2020 in 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 will go ahead in July next year, say organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). but the shape of those Games – whether spectators will be allowed, whether there will be control on numbers and so further – is yet to be decided and will depend on the development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Progress in developing vaccines and remedies to combat the novel coronavirus are likely to be significant to the shape of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In the past 24 hours alone, there have been three significant shifts in the realm of hopeful signs. Yesterday, medical startup Anges Inc. started Japan’s first clinical trial on humans of a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus, aiming for government approval by autumn next year “for its sale if the vaccine proves to be safe and effective”, Japanese media reported.

The timing suggested will not help Tokyo 2020 in 2021, unless the vaccine is proved to work and be safe and can be supplied specifically to those attending the Olympic Games in the first wave of any early rollout. Kyodo News reported:

“The trial at Osaka City University Hospital begins with injecting the DNA vaccine into 30 healthy adults through early July. It will assess their data over eight weeks to see whether they have side effects from the vaccine or have developed antibodies against the disease. The participants are grouped into two teams of 15, with one given larger amounts of the vaccine than the other. Each person receives two intramuscular shots of the vaccine.

“If the initial phase of the clinical trial confirms the vaccine’s safety, Anges will expand enrollment to around 400. If the next stage goes well, it hopes to obtain government approval between the spring and the fall of next year to produce and sell the vaccine. Anges said the enrolled patients will be observed until July next year. It said it also plans a separate clinical trial of the vaccine at Osaka University.

“The vaccine Anges has developed will inject a genetically engineered circular DNA into the body that produces “spike proteins,” which are a characteristic of the coronavirus, according to the company. When such proteins are made, the body’s immune system is stimulated to make antibodies against the virus. Anges joins some 17 clinical tests of coronavirus vaccine candidates being conducted globally, including by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna Inc., British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Plc and China’s CanSino Biologics Inc., as the race accelerates.”

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In Japan, Shionogi & Co. is also developing a vaccine but has yet to start a clinical test on humans.

Meanwhile, Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai Co. is set to start clinical trials in the United States of its experimental drug eritoran in the battle against coronavirus, with results potentially available by the year-end, the company said today. Eisai will test eritoran, initially developed to treat severe sepsis, in conjunction with U.S.-based nonprofit organization Global Coalition Adaptive Research, formed of medical experts tasked with discovering cures for rare and deadly diseases.

Among other Japanese firms in the race to find treatments for coronavirus, a Fujifilm Holdings Corp. chemical arm is conducting clinical tests of its anti-flu drug Avigan, also known as favipiravir.

Travel To & From Olympic City Tokyo 2020 Starting To Ease Up

The European Union todaylifted travel restrictions for visitors from 14 countries outside the bloc, including Japan and South Korea, after introducing the curbs in March in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Individual EU member nations can still impose their own measures on visitors from the 14 countries, including requesting them to quarantine.

The other 12 on the list are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

Japan has an entry ban in place for about 130 countries and regions, including the EU nations. Since the EU seeks reciprocity on the lifting of restrictions, the bloc is set to call on Tokyo to ease its measures.

The last thing anyone now needs…

Adding to what is already a high state of alert and disruption, a weather agency panel off experts said this week that Mount Sakurajima in southwestern Japan may erupt on a large scale, based on recent data analysis.

The frequency of eruptions at Minamidake summit crater in Kagoshima Prefecture has been on the decrease while the volume of volcanic ashes remains unchanged, meaning the upcoming eruption could be bigger than usual, the panel on forecast of volcanic activities at the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The panel did not say specifically when the volcano is likely to erupt. On May 9, plume of ash spewed from the volcano’s 1,040-meter Minamidake summit crater in the eruption, reaching about 4,200 meters in the sky. The volcano also made a similar-size eruption on Nov. 8.

While no damage was reported by the last eruption, large rocks were flown to the upper part of the mountain and volcanic ashes were falling in nearby municipalities. Six flights to and from Kagoshima airport were also cancelled due to the spread of ash.

 

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