Tokyo athletes to get daily COVID tests, spectator decision by June


The Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower are illuminated with Olympic colours to mark 100 days countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) — Olympic athletes will be given daily tests for the coronavirus during their time in Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Games, organizers said on Wednesday, introducing a number of tighter countermeasures to show the event was still on track.

Spectators from overseas have already been ruled out, and a decision on whether to allow domestic spectators will be taken in June, a few weeks before the Games begin on July 23.

The organizers, who include the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Japanese government and the International Paralympic Committee, said in a joint statement that they would “deploy all possible countermeasures and place the highest priority on safety”.

With less than three months to go to the Games, and the Japanese public increasingly skeptical about their viability, the organizers were finalizing a second edition of the “playbooks” that will set the rules for the staging of the event.

Athletes and those in close contact with them will be tested every day, while all participants will be required to record two negative tests before arrival.

Participants will not be allowed to use public transport, and will have to eat in specific locations with special hygiene measures.

Parts of Japan including the capital were put under a new state of emergency at the weekend, and most of the Japanese public think the Games, postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, should be canceled or postponed again.

The emergency, which is due to last until May 11, requires restaurants and bars serving alcohol to close along with large stores, cinemas and other commercial facilities; asks firms to let staff work from home; and excludes spectators from big sports events.

Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, told the organizers that he fully understood the decision to declare the emergency.

Speaking by video link, he said the playbooks would be strictly enforced, and that the IOC was “fully committed to the successful and safe delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

An earlier edition of the rules, which came out in February, banned singing and chanting during events and mandated that participants wear masks at all times except when outdoors, or sleeping or eating.

Even without foreign spectators, more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and support staff are expected to arrive in Japan in July.

Though Japan has not suffered as badly from COVID-19 as many other countries, the infection rate has risen back to levels not seen since January, and more and more are from new variants of the virus. On Wednesday, Tokyo reported 925 new cases.

The Games run from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Reporting by Rocky Swift and Ju-min Park; writing by Elaine Lies and David Dolan; Editing by Kevin Liffey. © 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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