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A Week Before The Opening Ceremony, Coronavirus Turns Up At Tokyo's Olympic Village

A man rides a bike near the village for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. On Saturday, officials announced the first case of COVID-19 found at the center housing thousands of athletes.
Jae C. Hong
A man rides a bike near the village for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. On Saturday, officials announced the first case of COVID-19 found at the center housing thousands of athletes.

One week before the top global sporting event kicks off, the first person has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Olympic Village in Tokyo, as more than 11,000 athletes, plus an estimated 79,000 journalists, officials and staff are slated to gather in Japan during the ongoing pandemic.

So far, 44 people affiliated with the Games have tested positive since the beginning of July, most of them contractors.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto announced at a news conference Saturday that the latest infection was detected during PCR screening conducted a day earlier and the person is now quarantined for 14 days at a hotel.

The identity and nationality were not revealed, but Muto said the infected person comes from overseas.

The individual is listed as "games-concerned personnel" in the running tally of infections organizers are tracking.

On Friday, a member of the Nigerian delegation became the first visitor to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

Olympic organizers face a big test

The infections are testing organizers' ability to keep the virus at bay.

In six days, the July 23 opening ceremony officially kicks off more than two weeks of events for the world's pre-eminent competitors in 33 sports.

It's a makeup after Tokyo postponed the Games from July 2020 because of the pandemic. One year later, the pandemic is still here, driven in part by the delta variant, which spreads the coronavirus about225 %faster than the original version.

Tokyo is battling a fifth wave of infections. With cases at a half-year high, polling finds a majority of residents oppose hosting the Games.

On July 8, Japan declared a state of emergency, banning spectators from events in the capital.

The Olympic Village is part of efforts to keep athletes and staff in a bubble; a series of high-rise buildings provide housing, dining and medical care on the Harumi waterfront district of Tokyo. A "Fever Clinic" is equipped for COVID-19 testing and diagnosing.

In case of close contact with an infected person, every visitor to Japan is required to use smartphone apps to help with contact tracing.

Officials are encouraging but not requiring vaccination among Games participants. They say more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village have been vaccinated.

A 70-page playbook lays out mitigation measures for all participants including mask wearing (unless eating, sleeping, training or competing), regular screening tests for COVID-19 and physical distancing (no hugs or high-fives).

Even the medal ceremony is going contactless; athletes will be required to fetch their medal off of a tray and drape it around their own neck.

And in the coming days and weeks, Olympics organizers will continue to showcase whether their own efforts can ensure the Games go ahead safely.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.
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