A foreign athlete and five Olympic workers in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Tokyo 2020 organizers.
The cases, announced Thursday, have marked the latest infections emerging among people participating in the Summer Games, which are due to begin next week, and have raised new concerns about the spread of coronavirus at the global sporting event.
In a statement on its website, Tokyo 2020 said the six people – which included several entrepreneurs – had tested positive for the virus on July 13 and 14. He did not disclose further details about the athlete or staff.
Japan’s NHK broadcaster said the athlete observes a 14-day isolation period and has not yet moved to the Tokyo Athlete Village, where 11,000 athletes stand and mingle during the games. ranging from July 23 to August 8.
NHK also said the case marked the “first time a foreign athlete staying or heading to a facility run by the organizing committee has been found to have the coronavirus.”
The news of the latest cases came after the Russian news agency RIA said on Wednesday that a masseur with the Russian team of seven rugby women had been hospitalized after taking the positive test for COVID-19 .
An official in the host city of the Russian team of Munakata, in western Japan, told AFP news agency that the delegation, which included 16 athletes and 10 staff members, had landed at a Tokyo airport on July 10 and did not have close contact with local officials or residents.
The official said the rest of the Russian team was now quarantined in their accommodation, adding that if they had done negatively on Thursday, they would be able to resume training by Friday.
COVID cluster at the Olympic hotel
Also Wednesday, a COVID-19 cluster was spotted at a hotel hosting members of the Brazilian Olympic team. Eight hotel personnel in the city of Hamamatsu, southwest of Tokyo, were found to have the virus during a routine screening. But a city official told AFP that the 31-person Brazilian Olympic delegation was in a “bubble” at the hotel, separated from other guests, and that none of the infected staff had come into contact with it. the athlete.
Separately, a city official in the town of Kagoshima said 21 members of the South African rugby team were also isolated after coming into close contact with a positive case during their flight to Japan. The official said the team should be in town by Wednesday, but that plan has been stopped until the new health authorities ’council.
The spread of infections highlights the challenges ahead for organizers, although they noted that only a handful of cases have been detected so far among more than 8,000 people who have entered Japan since July 1. .
The sporting event also takes place if the host city, Tokyo, remains under a state of emergency connected to the coronavirus that will last until after the end of the games. The Japanese capital is struggling with an increase in COVID-19 infections, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant. On Wednesday, it reported 1,149 new COVID-19 cases, the highest figure since January.
The growth of cases, accompanied by a slow vaccination campaign, has led to a loss of public support for the Olympics in Japan, many fearing that the games could trigger an influx of infections and a growth of new variants.
In an attempt to allay these fears, Tokyo 2020 organizers have banned all spectators from all Olympic events in the capital and surrounding regions, and have imposed Olympic “bubbles” to limit contact between visitors and the Japanese public. wider. But medical experts are concerned that they are not completely constrained as the movement of staff serving the games could create opportunities for infection.
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who is in Japan for the opening ceremony on July 23, met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday and reiterated a commitment to implement measures to prevent them. to carry “any risk to the Japanese people.”
Bach also told Suga that 85 percent of the participating athletes and 100 percent of the CIO members and staff were “vaccinated or immune.” He also praised the organizers and the Japanese people for staging the event in the midst of the pandemic, telling reporters after the meeting that “these will be the historic Olympic Games … for the way they are. the Japanese people have overcome so many challenges in the last two years. ”
When Japan was awarded the games in 2013, they were scheduled to be a recovery celebration from a deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in 2011.
Japanese leaders had also hoped that the games rescheduled this year would help mark a global victory over the coronavirus, but many countries are now struggling with new surges of infection.
A 28-country Ipsos survey, published Tuesday, showed a silenced global interest in the Tokyo Olympics because of concerns about COVID-19 in Japan and the retirement of high-profile athletes.
The survey found an overall average of 46 percent interest in gambling, while in Japan, 78 percent of people were against the advancing event.