Olympics: Risk of spread of COVID-19 is ‘zero’, says IOC chief Bach, even as cases rise in Tokyo

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Thursday there was a “zero” risk of Games participants infecting Japanese residents with COVID-19, as cases peaked in six months in the city host.

“The risk to other residents of the Olympic Village and the risk to the Japanese people is zero,” Bach said, adding that athletes and Olympic delegations had undergone more than 8,000 tests for coronavirus, resulting in three positive cases.

These cases have been placed in isolation and their close contacts are also subject to quarantine protocols, Bach said at the start of talks with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto.

Just over a week before the opening ceremony on July 23, Tokyo reported 1,308 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, its highest daily tally since the end of January.

Postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics have little public support in Japan amid widespread fears about a further spread of the coronavirus.

Critics of plans to host the Tokyo Olympics – which have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic – submitted a petition on Thursday that garnered more than 450,000 signatures this month, Japanese media reported .

Organizers have imposed Olympic “bubbles” to prevent further transmissions of COVID-19, but medical experts fear they are not tight enough.

COVID-19 cases are emerging

A number of infections have emerged among several visiting athletes and people involved in the games.

An Olympic athlete subjected to a 14-day quarantine period tested positive in Tokyo, the organizing committees website reported Thursday, without disclosing any details about the athlete.

Eight members of the Kenya women’s rugby team, who were scheduled to host a training camp in Kurume in southwestern Japan, were classified as close contacts of a passenger on their flight to Tokyo who tested positive coronavirus, a city official said.

The eight athletes all tested negative upon arrival at the airport, the official added, and will remain in an accommodation center in Tokyo until the Games.

Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency earlier this week amid a rebound in COVID-19 cases that prompted Games organizers to ban spectators from nearly all venues.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan will take deeper steps to strengthen border controls against the coronavirus.

Restrictions around the cauldron
Given the state of emergency in the host city, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has said it will deny public access to the capital’s waterfront and called on the public to refrain from visit the Olympic torch platform.

The waterfront area, dubbed Tokyo Waterfront City, was supposed to feature “cool spots, rest areas and dining areas” and be open to spectators and non-ticket holders, organizers said.

Some of the sponsor booths may be operated on a restricted access basis during the Games, a committee spokesperson told reporters.

The decision whether or not to allow public access to the area during the Paralympics will be made after the Olympics have ended, the spokesperson said.

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