India’s Health Ministry has been asked to make Olympic 2020 athletes a “priority” for coronavirus vaccinations after key workers, according to reports. It comes after Indian Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju claimed earlier this month that the country’s squad would all receive the COVID-19 jab.

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Rijiju said, “COVID warriors” such as medical and security staff must come first but it is hoped the Tokyo 2020 team will not be far behind.

We have requested the Health Ministry to put athletes on priority, a Sports Ministry source told media agency Asian News International (ANI). As of now, we are awaiting their reply. Once they respond, we will start executing the process. 

There is still time for the Olympics and we are hopeful that we will be able to do it. We are having discussions with all concerned departments regarding this and we are working on it. The Olympic 2020 Olympics are due to begin on July 23 after being pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the vaccination starts for others, after COVID warriors we want to give it to our players first especially the Olympic-bound athletes, Rijiju told ANI.  First of all, we have to ensure that COVID warriors get the vaccine because they are the ones who protect society.”

Some countries have already begun vaccinating their Olympic 2020 athletes but the idea of protecting young, fit and healthy sportsmen and women before the most vulnerable has naturally prompted criticism. 

“I’m encouraging more international matches in India,” said Rijiju.

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India has been one of the countries worst affected by coronavirus with 11 million cases and 156,000 deaths. The country appears to have passed the peak, however. There was a total of 10,584 recorded cases yesterday compared with 97,894 logged one day last September. 

Rijiju applauded India’s reopening to international sport with an International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup scheduled for New Delhi next month. Badminton’s India Open is planned for May while the ongoing Test cricket series between the hosts and England will continue from tomorrow with the third contest in Ahmedabad. Our teams are going out also, but in the future, I want more international games and competitions to be held in India.

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