The scuttlebutt is at a murmur level for now, but concerns are being raised over the effects of the coronavirus on the 2020 Olympics being staged in Tokyo in July.

There's a reason for them to be worried. At last count, the virus has claimed more than 2,000 lives, most of them in China where the outbreak occurred. The number of infected worldwide stands at 75,000.

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Olympics couldn't happen tomorrow

Japanese virologist Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani said staging the athletic event would be impossible if they were literally held tomorrow.


"We need to find the best way to have a safe Olympics," he said. "Right now we don't have an effective strategy, and I think it may be difficult to have the Olympics (now). But by the end of July, we may be in a different situation."

Although two world wars cancelled the Olympics in its 124-year history, a virus has never jeopardized the event. But a clause in the Tokyo 2020 event's insurance policy might be triggered in the event of a cancellation. The premium, estimated at nearly $400 million, would cover lost ticket sales, although the International Olympic Committee may have another policy to cover lost revenues associated with broadcasting and sponsorships.

Possible contingency plans

It's more likely that the Olympics would be canceled than if it restricted China from taking part. That said, contingencies include heavy screenings of international athletes arriving in Japan for the event and establishing quarantine facilities at the athlete's village. But other pundits cautioned participants not to panic.

"It is important to remember there was a huge clamour for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be cancelled because of the Zika virus outbreak, but those Games went ahead without any problem," said Dr. Brian McCloskey—who served as public health director for the London Olympics in 2012—to the BBC.

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