Tokyo Olympics unrealistic without a coronavirus vaccine?

The need to conduct exhaustive clinical trials to test the drugs' effectiveness and safety, however, mean it could be months before they are widely available.

Tokyo Olympics was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.   -  REUTERS

It will be difficult for Tokyo to host the Olympics next year unless there is an effective vaccine against the coronavirus, the head of the Japan Medical Association (JMA) said on Tuesday.

“I hope vaccines and drugs will be developed as soon as possible,” JMA president Yoshitake Yokokura said in a media briefing. “I am not saying that Japan should or shouldn't host the Olympics, but that it would be difficult to do so.”

READ | USA Swimming plans to begin pre-Olympic meets in November

Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Games until July next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The one-year delay was a major blow to a country which had already spent $13 billion preparing for the event.

The country is under a monthlong state of emergency amid a rapid increase of infections throughout the country, where hospitals are overburdened.

Japan has 13,576 reported virus cases, plus 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, with 389 deaths, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

Yokokura also called for an increase in coronavirus testing, which he said was not widespread enough to judge whether infection rates in the country were falling. He also blamed a lack of gowns and other protective clothing for spreading the virus in hospitals.

As the outbreak has spread around the world, infecting almost three million people and killing more than 200,000, experts have warned that the fight against the virus could be prolonged.

READ | IOC gives $25M more to Olympic athletes, teams

Laboratories in several countries are working on vaccines to protect people against the novel coronavirus and drugs to treat its symptoms. Experts have said it could take 12-18 months or longer to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for clinical use.

The need to conduct exhaustive clinical trials to test their effectiveness and safety, however, mean it could be months before they are widely available.

(With inputs from AP)