'Disgrace': Backlash after Aussie Olympians jump vaccine queue

Australian athletes selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gather during the Australian Track & Field Championships in 2021.
The national cabinet's decision to allow Australian Olympic and Paralympic athletes access to the vaccine before they head to Tokyo has sparked backlash. (Getty Images)

The decision for the national cabinet to fast track all Olympic and Paralympic athletes the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the Tokyo Games has sparked fierce backlash.

The national cabinet agreed on Tuesday up to 2,050 nominated athletes and officials heading to Tokyo will jump the queue and get the vaccination before July and August.

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Originally, most would would have fallen under category 2b of the national vaccine rollout, which would make them eligible for the vaccine later in 2021.

But the cabinet's decision will allow all nominated athletes to become eligible in the current vaccine rollout.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) chief Matt Carroll said the added layer of protection would be a relief to athletes.

"There will be hundreds of very grateful athletes, coaches and their families relieved to know that their hard work over five years has been worth it," he said in a statement.

"This added layer of assurance is what they were seeking."

The decision was handed down after Japan declared a virus state of emergency in Tokyo and three other regions, exactly three months before the Olympic opening ceremony, as new infections surge.

Backlash after Olympic vaccine decision

But, the move didn't sit well with many in the community who labelled the decision to hand athletes the vaccine for an overseas event as "appalling".

While others praised the decision for the athletes that have waited five years for the global event.

The health minister added it was important the Olympic and Paralympic athletes were safe abroad.

"We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday.

Tokyo in state of emergency

The measures will be stricter than Japan's last state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country from January, but still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in some parts of the world.

"We have a strong sense of crisis," Japan's minister for virus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

The measures will ask businesses serving alcohol to shut or stop serving alcohol between April 25 to May 11, and also shutter major commercial facilities such as shopping malls and department stores.

Japan has seen a comparatively small Covid-19 outbreak, with fewer than 10,000 deaths despite never imposing the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.

But cases surged over winter and have rebounded after the previous state of emergency was lifted in March.

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

with AFP

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