A COVID-19 cluster has been detected at a Japanese hotel where dozens of Brazilian Olympic team members are staying, officials said on Wednesday (July 14), raising concerns of COVID-19 infections spreading between locals and Olympic staff and athletes. Seven staff at the hotel in the city of Hamamatsu, southwest of Tokyo, have tested positive, said a city official, but the 31 members of the Brazilian Olympic delegation, which includes judo athletes, are in an ‘bubble’ inside the hotel separated from other guests and have not been infected.
The cases were found during a routine screening process required before the staff started work, said city official Yoshinobu Sawada, adding the unidentified hotel was now considered a COVID-19 cluster. Medical experts are worried that Olympics ‘bubbles’, imposed by Tokyo 2020 Olympic officials in an effort to ensure a COVID-19 free Games, might not be completely tight as movement of staff servicing the Games can create opportunities for infections.
The pandemic-hit Olympics, due to start in nine days, have lost public support amid lingering concerns over infection risks and a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo, despite organisers promising strict coronavirus measures. Many Olympic delegations are already in Japan ahead of the Games, some of them are training in local towns. Several athletes have tested positive upon their arrival.
Members of the South African rugby team are in isolation after arriving in Japan, as they are believed to be close contacts with a case on their flight, said Kagoshima city, a host town for the team.
The total of 21 members of the South African squad were due to stay in the city from Wednesday, but that plan has been halted until further advice from health authorities, said city official Tsuyoshi Kajihara. Global interest in the Tokyo Olympics is muted, an Ipsos poll of 28 countries showed, amid concerns over COVID-19 in Japan and withdrawals of high-profile athletes, with the host country among the most disinterested.
The poll released on Tuesday found a global average of 46% interest in the Games, but excitement varied across markets, with less than 35% in Japan. Spectators have been barred from attending all Olympic events in Tokyo and surrounding regions and Japanese officials are asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people to a minimum.
Only 22% of Japanese say the Games should go ahead, the Ipsos survey showed. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said a sufficient number of hospitals combined with a speed-up in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout among the elderly meant the city will be able to hold ‘safe and secure’ Olympics.
Australia will be bringing its biggest Olympic team ever to Tokyo 2020, the head of Australia’s national told reporters on Wednesday. Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said he was very comfortable because almost all of his athletes were vaccinated.
But a number of global star players are skipping the Games. Former world number one golfer Adam Scott said he questioned whether holding the Tokyo Olympics was a ‘responsible decision’, pointing to fear among people in Japan as the country battles a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
Scott said earlier that he would not play at Tokyo. Switzerland’s Roger Federer became the latest big name in tennis to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics after the 20-times Grand Slam champion said on Tuesday that he had picked up a knee injury during the grasscourt season.
The Games, postponed from last year because of the pandemic, run from July 23 to August 8. Tokyo’s state of emergency, the capital’s fourth, lasts until August 22, shortly before the Paralympics begin.