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Top Japanese Doctor Says Olympics 'Will Be Difficult' Without Vaccine

By VOA News April 28, 2020

The head of the Japan Medical Association said Tuesday it will be difficult for the country to host the rescheduled Olympics next year without a coronavirus vaccine available.

"I am not saying that Japan should or shouldn't host the Olympics, but that it would be difficult to do so," said Yoshitake Yokokura. "Unless an effective vaccine is developed, I expect hosting the Olympics will be difficult."

The pandemic forced organizers to abandon plans to hold the games this July, opting instead to postpone the event that draws thousands of athletes from all over the world.

Multiple countries are currently working on developing vaccines, but experts have cautioned the process to test both the safety and effectiveness of vaccine candidates, plus manufacturing doses, could take 12 to 18 months.

Ahmed Al-Mandhari, director of the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean Office, said during a briefing Tuesday there is no better time for "unity and collaboration between nations."

"We are committed to ensuring that as medicines and vaccines are developed, they are shared equitably with all countries and people," he said.

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted officials to put billions of people under various stay-at-home orders and tell non-essential businesses to close their doors.

The result has been increases in unemployment, massive revenue cuts and governments balancing the need to stop the spread of the virus with economic concerns. Some have enacted financial rescue packages to help put money in people's pockets and keep businesses afloat.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock suggested a $90 billion effort to help provide income, food and health aid for the world's most vulnerable people at a time when experts say the pandemic has not yet reached the poorest parts of the planet.

He said there are 700 million people in 30 to 40 countries that had been receiving some level of humanitarian assistance and will see incomes drop as increased infections force lockdown measures.

"What I am suggesting is a lot of the suffering and loss of life can be contained within sums of money which are imaginable," he said.

Lowcock said funding could come from a combination of international institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as one-time boosts in contributions from governments.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged European countries that are easing their lockdowns because of declining numbers of new cases to "find, isolate, test and treat all cases of COVID-19 and trace every contact, to ensure these declining trends continue."

He told a media briefing in Geneva on Monday that "the pandemic is far from over." He added that the "WHO continues to be concerned about the increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries."

His comments followed easing of restrictions in Italy, Spain, Germany and elsewhere.

France, one of the hardest-hit nations with more than 23,000 COVID-19 deaths, is due to announce its plans to begin easing restrictions on Tuesday.

Health officials in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, said Tuesday there were no new cases and that there were no remaining coronavirus patients in its hospitals for a second consecutive day.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide have surpassed 3 million, and fatalities have exceeded 211,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

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