Osaka – A member of the Ugandan Olympic team tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving at Narita Airport on Saturday night in the first known case of COVID-19 among athletes traveling from abroad.
The discovery comes just over a month before the opening ceremony and amid concerns of another spike in infections once the games begin on July 23. A state of emergency in nine prefectures, including Tokyo, will be lifted Monday.
Eight Ugandan coaches and athletes, who will compete in boxing, weightlifting, and swimming events, were allowed to enter Japan after testing negative. They boarded a bus for the city of Izumisano, next to Osaka’s Kansai Airport. Izumisano is serving as a pre-Olympic training location and host town for the delegation until July 19. The government indicated the athlete who tested positive can be admitted to the country and travel after testing negative.
The Ugandan team was originally supposed to touch down at Kansai Airport on June 16. Their arrival was delayed as they were unable to secure a flight on that date due to the coronavirus situation in Uganda, Izumisano officials said.
They arrived at their Izumisano hotel at around 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Team members, carrying their country’s flag, were ushered inside, where they will remain in self-quarantine and receive daily PCR tests.
The Ugandans are the second Olympic delegation to arrive in Japan. Nearly 30 members of the Australian women’s softball team arrived on June 1 and have been staying in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. None of the members of the Australian squad have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The positive test result for the Ugandan team member comes as concerns and warnings about the public health risks of holding the Olympics continue to grow.
On Friday evening, government health experts, led by top health adviser Shigeru Omi, released an eight-page proposal that said holding the Tokyo Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an increase in infections. It recommended holding the events without spectators, calling it the least risky option.
On Saturday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike canceled metropolitan government-sponsored public viewing events during the games, announcing some of the planned locations will be used to administer vaccinations instead.
Outside of Tokyo, many local governments are worried about the possibility of a rise in infections during and after the Tokyo Olympics. NHK reported on June 1 that 102 local governments in 36 prefectures had canceled their plans to serve as training camps and host towns prior to the start of the Olympics due to coronavirus fears.
And on Saturday, the National Governors’ Association, whose members include the nation’s 47 prefectural governors, called on the central government to make its best efforts to prevent a spread of infections during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
In Osaka, Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura warned Friday that the upcoming summer vacation period combined with the games meant increased movements of people. He called for local residents to be wary.
“Unlike last year, a highly infectious Indian strain (the delta strain) has already arrived in Osaka. Vaccines are progressing, but they are for elderly people, and not prevalent among younger generations where we’re seeing the infection spread,” Yoshimura said in a local television interview.
“Behavioral patterns change during the summer vacation period and it’s quite possible we’ll see another wave of infections from the end of July to the beginning of August.”
The central government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 organizers, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee are expected to decide Monday on the number of domestic spectators allowed to attend. International spectators have been banned. While some reports suggested there could be a cap of 10,000 fans, a Nippon Television report Sunday said organizers were discussing an upper limit of possibly 20,000 guests and officials at the opening ceremony.
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