Concerns remain high just days before the Tokyo Games open.
Three athletes, two of the South African football players staying at the Olympic Village, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Games Organising Committee announced on Sunday, adding to the skepticism that surrounds the troubled event slated to open on July 23. It is the first instance of athletes staying at the village catching the infection. Their identities were not revealed by the organizers but the South African Football Association issued a statement to make that information clear. The third infected athlete is staying at a designated Games hotel and his/her identity is not yet known.
"Three members from Team SAs mens under-23 football team have produced positive tests for Covid-19 and are in isolation in the Tokyo 2020 isolation facility," the South African Football Association (SAFA) stated.
A total of 10 cases were detected on the day, including five "Games concerned personnel", one contractor, and a journalist, according to the COVID-19 Positive Case List uploaded by the OC.
"A fourth Team SA member, Sevens rugby coach Neil Powell, has also produced a positive result and has been admitted to an isolation facility in Kagashimo where the Sevens squad are currently in at a pre-Games training camp," SAFA stated.
The total number of Games-related COVID cases has now risen to 55 as per the OC records. "When there is a positive COVID 19 case -- it means action. There is a clear procedure to identify close contacts. A case is not just data in a spreadsheet but leads to action, including immediate follow-up testing," International Olympic Committees (IOC) Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi stated.
"We can safely say that 40,000 COVID 19 tests have been carried out before coming to Japan for 18,000 Games participants. Then there is the screening on the airport followed by regular screening, testing for athletes every day," he added.
IOC Games Operations Director Pierre Ducrey, however, insisted that there is no cause for concern at this moment. "Since 1 July more than 18,000 games participants arrived from overseas. All of them had at least 2 negative tests before arrival. When they arrived, they had another test. When they are here, there is a strict testing regime in place," said Ducrey.
As Covid-19 cases in Tokyo continue to rise, IOC president Thomas Bach says the Olympics will be the "most restricted sports event ever in the world" and the event can be held safely because of measures taken to avoid infection #SportsBiz #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/jXgM2Vl7bE— SportsPro (@SportsPro) July 16, 2021
"The participants of the Olympic Games are the most controlled population in the world," he added. The development comes a day after a non-athlete at the village tested positive for the dreaded virus and was shifted out of the premises.
"...we believe we have the situation under control. As such, properly if cases are found, the individuals are isolated and we trace all close contacts if there are any other cases, thats what is most important," Hide Nakamura, chief Games delivery officer for Tokyo 2020, said in a press conference.
"Even with all measures fully taken, there will be some positive (coronavirus) cases. Under the coronavirus situation which encompasses the entire world, so it is inevitable that there will be cases.
"What is important is that when such cases arise, we properly systematically isolate them so that there will be no further transmissions."
Team South Africas Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phatho Zondi said the previous negative results of the infected athletes suggest that the virus was incubating in their bodies at that time.
"They are now in isolation where they will continue to be monitored and will not be allowed to train or have any physical contact with the rest of the squad," he said.
The first batch of Indian athletes for the Games arrived here this morning. The 88-strong Indian delegation comprised, archers, the two hockey teams, table tennis players, and swimmers among others. The shooters and the boxers also landed from their respective training bases in Croatia and Italy this morning and on the wee hours of Saturday respectively.