Research shows no spread of COVID-19 between Tokyo athletes and local residents


The Japanese government released a study which confirmed that there had been no spread of COVID-19 between Tokyo athletes and the local population. Genomic sequencing research confirms that positive cases in athletes and Japanese residents were unrelated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) cited this data to highlight the success of the coronavirus countermeasures that have been implemented.

The data was published by Drs. Tomoya Saito and Brian McCloskey. Dr Tomoya is director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Center at the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and Dr McCloskey is chair of the Independent Expert Panel on COVID-19 Countermeasures.

According to Dr Saito, the dominant variant of the coronavirus in Japan came from the original Delta strain which entered the country two months before the Games. There was no evidence to suggest the virus was spread to the rest of the world through athletes in Tokyo.

“This means that there is no evidence that the virus spread to the rest of the world through Tokyo 2020 attendees,” he said, adding that the viral strains brought by attendees did not spread. spread in Japan. This is corroborated by the distribution of COVID-19 cases among athletes, officials and “other participants” of the games.

The “other participants” were mainly Japanese residents living in or around Tokyo. Thus, the number of cases among them increased at the same time as the local cases increased. Conversely, the cases of international athletes and officials, the majority of whom were staying in the Olympic Village or other accommodation, were effectively brought under control.

Additionally, the COVID-19 reproduction rate in Japan began to decline at the start of the Olympics. Dr Saito concluded his part by stating that “there does not appear to be a direct negative impact on the epidemic in Tokyo during the Games”.

Dr McCloskey then explained that standard public health and social measures such as physical distancing, hygiene, mask wear and ventilation were effective. Combined with a comprehensive testing, tracking and tracing program and a global vaccination effort, the coronavirus has been kept at bay. He added,

These results support the approach, advocated by the World Health Organization, according to which the fight and management of the COVID-19 pandemic depends on the use of all available options: public health and social measures, systems robust testing and traceability, vaccination… The results also show that, despite criticism and concerns expressed before the Games, Tokyo 2020 did not lead to a spread event, let alone a super spread event, and mass events can be safely organized if the appropriate countermeasures are in place.

In total, there were 33 positive cases among the 11,300 athletes and 464 among the 80,000 “accredited stakeholders”, such as officials, journalists and support staff. This proved, said the IOC, that the Olympic Games were safe for the athletes and the Japanese people, because it was not the “super broadcast event” that was feared the most.

Countermeasures from the Tokyo Olympics also influenced planning for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It will operate under a similar closed-loop management system that ensures the safety of athletes and the Chinese people by keeping them separate. Workers entering the closed-loop system will receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster at least two weeks before starting work. However, athletes, officials and journalists will not be required to have a reminder to be admitted into the closed loop system.

To be admitted into the closed-loop system without quarantine, athletes must be fully immunized at least 14 days prior to arrival. Participants are considered “fully immunized” according to the requirements of their country or national health agency. Those not fully vaccinated will need to be quarantined for 21 days, but some medical exemptions are allowed.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled for February 4-20, and the Paralympics will be held March 4-13.

Japan peaked in August with nearly 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported daily. However, those numbers fell sharply to around 400 by the end of 2021. During the same period, daily cases in Tokyo peaked at 6,000 before dropping to 35 by the end of the year.

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