Olympics-SoftBank CEO slams Games as Japan struggles to catch up on vaccinations

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Recasts with launch of a mass vaccination campaign

TOKYO, May 24 (Reuters)Japanese tycoon Masayoshi Son warned of the serious dangers surrounding the holding of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where the government on Monday launched a mass vaccination campaign to catch up with other countries and ensure a “safe and secure” Games.

In a series of tweets, the SoftBank group 9984.T The CEO expressed bemusement and concern over the Tokyo Olympics, calling Japan a “vaccine laggard” and saying the slow inoculation less than two months before the Games start could put people’s lives on the line. danger.

“Currently, over 80% of people want the Olympics postponed or canceled. Who and under what authority is he forced to go through?” the billionaire leader wrote in a Japanese Twitter post this weekend.

In a follow-up tweet on Sunday evening, Son wrote: “Does the IOC (International Olympic Committee) have the power to decide that the Games will be held?

“There is talk of a huge penalty (if the Games are canceled). But if 100,000 people from 200 countries descend on Japan overdue for vaccination and the mutant variant spreads, lives could be lost, grants could in fact spread. result if a state of emergency is called and gross domestic product could drop. If we consider what the public has to endure, I think we could have a lot more to lose. “

Son’s tweets followed comments from IOC Vice President John Coates on Friday that the games would go “absolutely” even if Tokyo was under COVID-19 restrictions.

Earlier this month, Son said in a television interview that he was “scared” of the Olympics, in part because of the severity of the pandemic in some countries.

VAX LAGGARD

Japan remains subject to emergency measures that have gradually spread as a fourth wave of infections sweeps through the population.

This contrasts with some other big economies starting to ease lockdown measures as vaccinations rush. The Games begin July 23.

Japan has vaccinated just 4.4% of its population, the slowest of the world’s largest and wealthiest countries, and has recorded 711,360 infections and 12,232 deaths from COVID-19 from the virus.

The military began mass vaccinations in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday with the newly approved Moderna Inc MRNA.O dose. The medical system in the city of Osaka, in the west of the country, is particularly feeling the pressure of the surge in infections.

The government has pledged to complete the vaccination of all eligible seniors who wish to be vaccinated by the end of July.

The slow progress in immunization has prevented the majority of the public from hosting the Games this year. A Reuters business survey found that nearly 70% of Japanese businesses also want the Olympics to be canceled or postponed.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Rocky Swift; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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