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News > Japan

Japan's Health Workers Revolt Against Tokyo Olympics

  • Olympic symbol in Hachioji, Japan, 2021.

    Olympic symbol in Hachioji, Japan, 2021. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 3 May 2021

The organizers of the Olympic Games intend to have 10,000 nurses working free of charge at a time when there is a shortage of medical staff to care for patients.

With less than three months to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan's health workers are opposing the deployment of 10,000 of them to the Olympic Village and competition venues.


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Their outrage grew last week when the organizing committee for the games asked the Japan Nurses Association (JNA) to provide 500 professionals to work on a volunteer basis. Social media erupted against this request with messages such as "nurses are not disposable parts."

The protest was supported by the Japan Federation of Medical Unions (IROREN), which issued a statement on Friday calling for "immediate review" of the aforementioned request and questioning the Japanese authorities' ability to control the pandemic.

"I feel strong anger against the insistence to organize the Games despite the risk they pose to the lives and health of patients and healthcare professionals," the IROREN Secretary Susumu Morita said.

Prefectures such as Osaka and Aichi are facing a shortage of healthcare workers because many have become infected or quit their jobs due to harsh working conditions, including working night shifts far above the legal limit. 

Amid the fourth wave of infections affecting Japan since early April, the number of people with severe symptoms of COVID-19 reached 1,050 patients in a single day on Sunday.

In addition, the number of patients hospitalized or under medical treatment is close to 59,000, the highest level since last January. In prefectures such as Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto, hospital beds for COVID-19 patients are on the verge of maximum occupancy.

These four regions are under a state of emergency until May 11, which means further restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on sporting events.


Susumu Morita
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