The Slatest

First COVID-19 Case Detected at Tokyo Olympic Village

A staff member guides a taxi at one of the entrances at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on July 15, 2021, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games which begins on July 23.
A staff member guides a taxi at one of the entrances at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Tokyo on July 15, 2021, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games which begins on July 23. PHILIP FONG/Getty Images

For the first time, someone from abroad tested positive for COVID-19 at the sprawling athletes’ village in Tokyo. The news, mere days before the Olympics are scheduled to start July 23 raised fresh questions about whether organizers of the Games will be able to keep their promise to run a “safe and secure” event. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics said Saturday that a visitor from abroad working for the Games tested positive during a routine check on Friday. They didn’t reveal the person’s name or nationality due to privacy concerns.

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In addition to the case in the village, there were 14 additional new COVID-19 cases detected among people connected to the Games. Those cases were made up by two members of the media, seven contractors, and five Olympics personnel. All in all, 45 people connected to the Olympics have tested positive for the coronavirus as athletes start to arrive for the Games that run from July 23 to August 8.

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The case detected in the village is particularly concerning as most of the 11,000 athletes who will be competing in the Games will be staying there. The person has been removed from the village and is now staying in a hotel. Tokyo Olympic President Seiko Hashimoto said that she understood how news of the infection would be met at a time when many in Japan are skeptical about holding the Games when there has been a resurgence of cases amid fears that it could become a super-spreader event. “I understand that there are still many worrying factors,” Hashimoto said. “Organizers must try to make sure that people will understand that these games are safe and secure.”

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Amid the increase in cases, the Olympic events will largely be held without fans after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a state of emergency in Tokyo earlier this month. That marked a shift from weeks earlier, when organizers had expressed optimism there could be a limited number of spectators at the events. Overseas fans had already been banned in March. Amid all the controversy and uncertainty a few athletes have also pulled out of participating and thousands of volunteers quit. Still, more than 11,000 athletes are expected to arrive in the coming days to participate in the Olympics and around 85 percent of them will have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Only 20 percent of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated.

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