Official’s grave fears for Olympics after positive cases
Olympic officials fear that the Tokyo Olympic Games athletes village may develop into a prime Covid cluster site after two athletes residing in the village have tested positive for the virus.
This follows the first village case – a Nigerian 60 year old team official picked up in testing as he entered the Olympic village on Saturday.
The two new cases – the first confirmed athlete cases from inside the village – are all from the same unnamed delegation and compete in the same sport.
A third athlete has also tested positive upon arrival but was picked up before heading into the village.
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The results have sent a shiver through the Games in the days before Friday night’s opening ceremony.
As well, hundreds of passengers from a flight originating in London have been put into hotel quarantine after a passenger has returned a positive test. It is unclear how long the passengers will be kept in confinement.
On Sunday the Tokyo Olympic organisers announced that there had been 10 new cases of Covid – the three athletes as well as media contractors and other personnel. The South Korean International Olympic Committee member Ryu Seung-min has also tested positive after landing in Tokyo. This follows 15 cases, many of them volunteers working in Games facilities – announced on Saturday.
More than 4000 athletes and coaches are expected to check into the Games village on Sunday and Monday and during its peak at the end of next week more than 9000 people will be residing there. The countermeasures put in place, including strict daily testing of all residents, was supposed to provide a level of comfort for the athletes.
The Australian Olympic Committee has imposed another layer of strict countermeasures on top of the Olympic playbooks to try and limit interactions of Australian athletes with the delegations of other countries.
Chef de mission Ian Chesterman said ‘’every effort is being made to make sure the team, is safe, including additional efforts.’’
He said the team would have ‘’very, very little contact with the Japanese public of all … we will be moving from village to venue back to the village and our interactions will be limited.’’
Mr Chesterman added: “protocols are in place at every (high risk) point, they are there to make sure our athletes are protected and obviously athletes understand that risk and the team is aware of that coming into the Olympic environment”.
Assistant chef de mission Susie O’Neill said there were grab and go packs of food so that Australian’s could avoid the dining hall, as well as providing their own barista.
IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi claimed transmission between the various groups at the Village was “almost impossible”.
“Testing is the way to reduce any spread,” Mr Dubi said.
“When we have a positive case, it means action.
“We know there is no such thing as zero-risk, but at the same time the mingling and crossing of populations is very limited.
“With all the measures that are in place, we keep the risk to an absolute minimum level.
“What we have done since cases have appeared at the airport in the Village is make sure they are ringfenced, tested and do not provide a risk.”
TWO ATHLETES TEST POSITIVE IN TOKYO
Two athletes have become the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said on Sunday.
The bombshell news was confirmed by the Tokyo Organising Committee just minutes after it was first reported that the entire Australian athletics team had been forced into lockdown as a result of an inconclusive test within the camp.
On Saturday the first positive case inside the Village was reported — confirming the worst fears of Olympics officials, just days out from the opening ceremony.
TOKYO COVID TESTING DEFENDED AFTER SHOCK VILLAGE POSITIVE
The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach strongly defended the testing procedures that were in place after confirmation of the first positive case from the village.
Speaking to international media after an executive board meeting, he said around 15,000 foreign visitors had been tested since arriving in Japan, with 15 returning positive tests, which was proof the system was working.
“This is a very low rate of 0.01 per cent,” Bach said.
“It goes without saying that all the people were immediately isolated so they do not pose a risk to other participants or the Japanese population.
“The close contacts of these people have also been identified … I think this shows that the measures are not only in place but are working and being reinforced.”
The IOC’s sports director Christophe Dubi said the village was designed to accommodate 17,000 people but would be less than half full at every stage of the Games because of requirements that athletes were told not to arrive more than five days before their events then leave within 48 hours of finishing up.
“The highest capacity does not necessarily mean the highest risk,” Dubi said.
“But that will be around the middle weekend, when we expect to have around 6000 athletes and their entourages.”
Tokyo officials confirmed on Saturday the person has been removed from the village and placed in a hotel.
It is understood the foreigner was involved in organising the games, however Tokyo 2020 authorities have declined to identify their nationality due to privacy concerns.
The Australian Olympic Committee has confirmed none of its athletes or officials already in the village have tested positive.
Tokyo Organising Committee spokesman Masa Takaya confirmed the positive case within the heart of the Olympics bubble.
“That was the very first case in the village that was reported during the screening test,” he said.
Since July 1 there have been 14 positive Covid-19 cases in Japan linked to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Japan remains locked in a state of emergency with daily Covid-19 cases reaching 3408 across the country on Friday — a six-month high according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
The positive case inside the village comes after Australian tennis star Alex de Minaur was forced to withdraw on Friday after recording a second positive Covid-19 test conducted prior to his departure for Japan.
De Minaur returned a positive result on both the 96-hour and 72-hour PCR test required by the Japanese government prior to entry.
The young ace, in Spain, has not been in contact with other members of the Australian Olympic Team since returning a negative test on July 5.