TOKYO, July 16 (Reuters) – A member of the Nigerian Olympic delegation in Tokyo became the first Olympic visitor to be hospitalized with COVID-19, reported Japan’s TV Asahi on Friday as Japan started playing the Games a week before the Games struggles to contain the rising local infections.
The person, a non-athlete in their 60s, tested positive at the airport Thursday night and had only mild symptoms but was hospitalized because of their age and previous medical conditions, TV Asahi said without providing further details.
The Australian Olympic Committee said earlier in the day that Australian tennis player Alex de Minaur, who ranks 15th in the world, tested positive for COVID-19 before leaving for the Tokyo Olympics.
U.S. basketball star Bradley Beal’s Olympic dream was abruptly interrupted Thursday when U.S. Basketball announced that the Washington Wizards star will miss the Tokyo Games after entering coronavirus logs at Las Vegas training camp.
Multiple COVID-19 cases have emerged with athletes and others involved in the Games, which begin July 23, despite the spread of infections in Tokyo and experts warning that worse is ahead. L1N2OR0C6
Tokyo is in a state of emergency over the pandemic, but most steps to contain the spread are voluntary and many people say they are tired of sticking to them.
“We are very disappointed with Alex,” Australia’s chief de mission, Ian Chesterman, told reporters on Friday.
“He said he was devastated and couldn’t come … but he sent his best wishes to the rest of the team.”
De Minaur sent back two positive tests in Spain before he was supposed to fly to Japan, said David Hughes, the chief medical officer of the AOC, at a press conference.
Organizers have promised that the games, postponed last year due to the pandemic, will be “safe and secure” and have imposed rigorous testing regimes and restrictions on delegates’ activities in an attempt to address public concerns dispel, many of whom wanted the cancellations of the games to be postponed again.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Thursday there was “zero” risk that participants in the Games would infect Japanese with COVID-19 as cases hit a six-month high in the host city.
However, Japanese Olympic gold medalist who became the head of Japan Sports Agency Koji Murofushi told Reuters on Friday that Olympic Games organizers need flexibility and quick decisions to respond to the spread of COVID-19 infections.
“It is possible that even after the Olympics have started, there will be situations where we need to take action to prevent the spread of infection – and if so, we need to be flexible enough to act quickly,” Murofushi said , 46, a gold and bronze medalist in hammer throw. L4N2OS14H
The Tokyo Games are held in most venues without an audience, and officials are urging the public to stay home and watch on television, which takes Japan’s hopes for games with pomp and public spectacle.
Bach had proposed to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that if the coronavirus situation improved, spectators would be allowed into the stadiums to watch the games, media reported.
When asked about the report, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters, while many hoped children could at least see the games in person, it would depend on the trend of infections.
BACH VISITS HIROSHIMA
Bach visited Hiroshima, the first city to be hit by an atomic bomb, on Friday to deliver a message of peace called by organizers on the first day of an “Olympic Armistice,” an ancient tradition for ending hostilities during the Games.
Bach laid a wreath at the cenotaph in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and described the games as a “beacon of hope” for a peaceful future.
The visit proved controversial, however, as some critics accused the IOC of using it as a publicity stunt and others were concerned about contagion.
Japan did not suffer the explosive outbreak seen elsewhere, recording more than 820,000 cases and around 15,000 deaths. But the host city of Tokyo had 1,308 new cases on Thursday and an additional 1,271 on Friday.
The city’s COVID-19 oversight committee warned Thursday that the seven-day moving average could nearly double to 2,406 in four weeks if the rate of contagion accelerates with the movement of people and the spread of new, highly transmittable variants.
That would approach the highest levels seen so far in the course of the pandemic.
Japan’s rocky introduction of vaccination has also created frustration among the public and city authorities who run much of the program. An initially slow start gained momentum only to encounter roadblocks due to delivery bottlenecks and only 31% of people have had at least one chance.
Additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Rocky Swift, Yui Pak, Kohei Miyazaki and Akiko Okamoto; Editing by Michael Perry and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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