Japan Declares State of Emergency Days Away from the OlympicsBy Miriam Bello | Thu, 07/08/2021 - 14:08
Controversy keeps haunting the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which the pandemic postponed to summer of 2021. Now, only two weeks away from their inauguration, Japan has declared a fourth COVID-19 state of emergency.
Before COVID-19, wars had been the only reason for cancelling or postponing these games. By postponing them to 2021, the Olympic committee aimed to safeguard the health of athletes, organizers and workers. The decision to postpone the event was welcomed by the vast majority of the athletes. Back then, there was growing confidence that the pandemic would have been under control by 2021. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee said the committee was confident that “in 4½ months, safe conditions could be offered,” in Japan.
However, only two weeks away from their inauguration, Japan has declared a state of emergency to last until August 22. According to Japan Times, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 920 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the most since mid-May at the peak of Japan's fourth wave of infections and topping the number of cases of a week earlier for the 18th day in a row. This is the fourth state of emergency imposed by Japan due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan has been trying to protect their population by accelerating its vaccination campaign, which has fully covered 19.1 million people (15.2 percent of its total population) to date. However, vaccinating efforts of Japan have been mainly hindered by a slow rollout, a severe shortage of doctors and nurses and by the need to import all vaccines, explained WHO. The country has been carrying out additional efforts to curtail the spread of the virus, such as imposing severe restrictions and mandatory quarantines on foreigners and encouraging the use of masks and social distancing.
As the Olympics approached, the games’ organizers ramped up their measures by banning overseas spectators and allowing domestic spectators at only 50 percent of capacity. But the latest wave of cases, has led organizers to ban all spectators from the games.
Associated Press reported that during a meeting of Japan’s government advisers, experts warned of the possibility of infections exploding during the games, projecting daily caseloads exceeding 1,000, severely straining healthcare systems. Ryuji Wakita, Director General of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Head of a COVID-19 Advisory Board, urged tighter border controls to detect and isolate infected travelers at airports to prevent infections from spreading from Tokyo to the suburbs. The request to increase border control arose after the delta COVID-19 variant was detected on the recently-arrived Ugandan team.
Mexico’s Olympic Team
Mexican athletes are on their way to Japan. The representative teams of softball, rowing and swimming heading now to Tokyo are expected to follow the games’ rigorous health and safety protocols, including extensive testing regimes. All the Mexican athletes and coaches participating in the Tokyo Olympic Games have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Organizers have created a Playbook of instructions for teams in order to ensure health and safety of all participants. The rules include the following:
-Competitors from outside Japan must be tested for COVID-19 twice, on different days, 96 hours before their flights to Japan. They will be tested again upon arrival.
-Athletes are expected to download an app that will monitor their location and be used for contact tracing.
-Athletes will be required to quarantine for three days after they arrive. They will be permitted to do Games-related activities during this time, so long as they test negative each day and agree to tighter supervision by Tokyo 2020 staff.
-Athletes will need to report their temperature and any symptoms via a smartphone app on a daily basis. They also may have their temperatures checked every time they enter an Olympics venue.
-Athletes will receive daily COVID-19 rapid saliva antigen tests. If the result is positive or unclear, a slower but more accurate PCR test will be conducted using the same sample.
-Athletes are to stay two meters apart from others, except while on the playing field. Physical interactions including hugs, handshakes and high-fives are discouraged. Athletes will also must wear masks except while eating, drinking, sleeping, training or competing.
-At meal times, athletes are to keep two meters away from others or eat by themselves.
-Athletes staying in the Olympic Village are to eat there or at venues or other specially-permitted locations. Those staying elsewhere may only eat at catering facilities at Games venues, the restaurant at their hotel, or in their room using room service or food delivery.
-Touristic activities is prohibited for athletes.