Epidemiologist Michael Baker wants the Tokyo Olympics to be called off and he has called on the Government to take a moral stance.
The Otago University professor’s comments come as India prepares to send a team to the games from July 23 to August 8 despite grappling with a second wave of Covid-19.
"At the moment we are obviously...at war with the global pandemic, so I think it is the right thing to do to postpone the Olympics for another year,” he told Breakfast.
“If you look back historically, the games have been suspended or cancelled twice before, the First World War and then two occasions in the Second World War.”
Baker said the decision needs to be taken away from athletes by the International Olympic Committee.
“I think from the athletes’ point of view, this would be an absolute tragedy. I fully understand that. This is the great decision that needs to be made by the International Olympic Committee and the government of Japan about how you balance out those competing forces,” he said.
“Ultimately, the symbolism and reality of having an event like this during the time of a pandemic, it just does not make sense.
“In Japan, this will be a very tough event to pull off. We know that if you have tens of thousands of people arriving, there will be mistakes.
Baker said he feels that calls for New Zealand to take on a global leadership role — saying the nation would not go — are appropriate.
“As you say, New Zealand’s response has been held up as a model of using good science to battle this pandemic. I think the science also says we should not be having mass gatherings that involve a huge amount of international travel,” he said.
“That’s incompatible with combating this pandemic.
“The surveys of people in Japan show the public do not want this event at all and the healthcare workers definitely do not want it. They’re struggling to manage their own pandemic at the moment. This will only make it worse.”