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Tokyo Olympic president says antivirus measures need to be tightened

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The president of the Tokyo Organising Committee said Friday organizers have to “tighten” anti-COVID-19 measures after two members of the Ugandan delegation tested positive for the disease following their arrival in Japan.

Seiko Hashimoto’s comment came after a Ugandan man in his 50s, who tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving at Narita Airport on Saturday, was found to be infected with the highly contagious delta variant first detected in India.

While the man has no symptoms, according to a health ministry official, a second member was found positive for the virus after traveling to Osaka Prefecture for a pre-Olympic training camp.

Hashimoto, who heads the organizing committee of the Olympics and Paralympics, said it needs to review how athletes are quarantined in their host towns or at the athletes’ village, in addition to how they travel within Japan.

To ensure the safety of the games, athletes will be kept in a “bubble” environment, preventing them from coming into close contact with Japan residents and requiring them to be screened for the virus daily, in principle. Hashimoto said at a news conference that the measures are not necessarily 100% effective.

After arriving in Izumisano, local health authorities determined that the entire Uganda delegation had been in close contact with the first infected individual.

All Summer Games participants are required to produce negative COVID-19 test results when coming to Japan.

The cases of the Ugandan team, whose members had received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before traveling to Japan, added to concern that the Olympics, due to begin July 23, may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Many medical experts in Japan have warned of a new wave of infections driven by highly transmissible variants before or after the games.

After the government ended a state of emergency in Tokyo nearly a week ago, the number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 600 for the first time in about a month and it logged 562 new cases on Friday, compared with about 450 reported a week ago.

Hashimoto said in her regular news conference that holding the Olympics without spectators remains an option if the situation does not improve.

Last week, the committee and four other organizing bodies of the games decided to fill 50% of the venues’ capacity, up to 10,000 people.

The organizers also said they will meet again to discuss a possible policy change in the event of any rapid change in infection status and in the capacity of Japan’s health care system.

They decided in March to hold the Olympics and Paralympics without fans from overseas as part of efforts to hold a “safe and secure” games following a one-year postponement.

As part of measures to help deliver support for athletes, the Japanese committee said Friday it will display messages and videos submitted by fans from around the world and participants’ family members on big screens at certain venues.

“The 2020 Tokyo Games cannot be held in front of full stadiums, but we would like to welcome athletes from around the world with full passion,” Hashimoto said.

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