The current plans to proceed with the Olympic Games are “not informed by the best scientific evidence,” the researchers wrote, calling for changes.
“I think no one at this point wouldn’t want to have that torch lit and to see us come back together, but I think that the approach they’re taking right now is virtually a dangerous one if they don’t change many of the recommendations they have and for how they’re going to protect athletes and their support team members,” Osterholm said. “I think this is a real challenge.”
‘Not informed by the best scientific evidence’
The statement added that the playbooks implement mask-wearing, personal hygiene, physical distancing and draw from hundreds of other sporting events that have taken place during the pandemic, “which have been held safely, with minimal risk to participants and the local population.”
In the New England Journal of Medicine, Osterholm and his co-authors wrote that the playbooks could include more frequent Covid-19 testing and they emphasized that plans for temperature checks could miss pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic cases.
“In the absence of regular testing, participants may become infected during the Olympics and pose a risk when they return home to more than 200 countries,” they wrote.
“We believe the IOC’s determination to proceed with the Olympic Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence,” the researchers wrote. “The playbooks maintain that athletes participate at their own risk, while failing both to distinguish the various levels of risk faced by athletes and to recognize the limitations of measures such as temperature screenings and face coverings.”
Vaccine maker donates Covid-19 shots
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he added in part.
In Japan, where the Olympic Games will be held, less than 5% of the population is vaccinated, the researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. They added that not all athletes participating in the Olympics may be able to get vaccinated.
“Pfizer and BioNTech have offered to donate vaccines for all Olympic athletes, but this offer does not ensure that all athletes will receive vaccines before the Olympics, since vaccine authorization and availability are lacking in more than 100 countries,” the researchers wrote. “Although several countries have vaccinated their athletes, adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age cannot be vaccinated in most countries, and children younger than 15 can be vaccinated in even fewer countries.”
They also noted in the paper that coronavirus variants, which may be more transmissible than the original strain, are circulating widely — posing risks.
Tokyo doctors want Games canceled
A major Japanese doctors’ group has called for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled over fears that the influx of people will exacerbate an already worsening outbreak in the country. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association warned earlier this month that the country’s health care system could not cope with the medical needs of thousands of athletes, coaches and press on top of the existing surge in Covid-19 cases.
The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association includes about 6,000 doctors in Tokyo.
“The most important priority now is to fight against COVID-19 and to secure people’s lives and livelihoods,” the letter said. “The virus is spreading with the movement of people. Japan will bear a big responsibility if the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games contributes to the spread of COVID-19 and increases the number of sufferers and deaths.”
CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Hong Kong, Selina Wang in Tokyo and Mai Nishiyama contributed to this report.