Tokyo Olympics did not worsen the spread of Covid-19, data shows


TOKYO : Initial data suggests that the Tokyo Olympics without spectators did not exacerbate the Covid-19 epidemic in Japan, providing organizers of the Winter Games in China in February with a model to host the event.

Japan hosted the Summer Games from July 23 to August 8 despite fears that around 50,000 athletes, officials and other foreigners could accelerate the spread of the virus. Most visitors arrived in July, just as the highly contagious Delta variant was hitting Japan head-on, and infections in the country peaked in the first part of August during the Games.

The scale and speed of infections in Tokyo were similar to those in other parts of Japan and other countries affected by Delta. While the wide-spread events in other countries led to an increase in the number of cases for weeks or months thereafter, cases in Tokyo and Japan overall fell sharply from the mid- August and have now fallen to about a quarter of the peak.

“I think we can always say that these Games were safe because we have no indication that there was a transfer of infection from the Olympic bubble to the people of Tokyo or the people of Japan,” said the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach. Thusday.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Friday she came to the same conclusion because government data showed the pace of Delta’s spread was slowing as the Olympics unfolded.

Japan’s anti-Covid-19 measures during the Games included banning spectators from almost all events and requiring frequent testing of athletes and other participants. Overseas visitors have been urged to restrict their travel to Olympic venues and use specially equipped vehicles to travel among them.

The athletes were not in a complete bubble. Hundreds of Japanese Olympic employees, contractors and volunteers traveled between Olympic venues and the local community throughout the 16 days of the Olympics and the 12 days after the Paralympics.

Some medical experts have said it is too early to say if the Games are safe. Organizers said 29 athletes and more than 500 other people involved in the event, including Japanese staff and guest officials, had been confirmed to be infected with Covid-19.

Dr Annie Sparrow, assistant professor of population health sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said comprehensive genomic data on infections would provide a better picture of how the virus was. transmitted.

“There is no way to understand or verify the chains of infection unless you do the sequencing and unless you actually publish this information,” Dr Sparrow said.

A report from the Japan National Institute of Infectious Diseases on Aug. 28 pointed to an Olympic link in Delta’s cases with a certain mutation. The mutation has been linked in one study to the ability to escape antibodies. The report states that 33 of the 41 cases in Japan of this Delta type were found in people involved in the Olympics or Paralympics.

The results leave open the possibility that Olympic visitors introduced a new form of Covid-19 to Japan, although the institute said it had not seen this mutation spread further and its impact was not. known.

Dr Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, said there were no clear cases of transmission in the community from the Olympic Village, where most of the athletes remained. Nonetheless, he said the Games could not be considered safe as they took place when Japan had low vaccination and testing rates.

“There seems to be a double standard here. There was a fairly well-controlled situation in the Olympic Village, but outside it was totally the opposite, “he said.

A European delegation to the Olympics with athletes who tested positive for Covid-19 has been told by officials in Tokyo that some of the infections are coming from Japanese staff working at the Games, according to a person involved in handling the cases. The delegation was urged not to make the discovery public, the person said. The local Olympic organizing committee said there had been no confirmed cases of infections transmitted from Japanese staff to foreign visitors.

Beijing has not said much about how it will organize the Games, including whether spectators will be allowed and whether foreign visitors will be free to roam. Chinese Olympic officials have consulted with the organizers of the Tokyo Games.

Dr Sparrow, of Mount Sinai Hospital, said a bubble narrower than Japan’s was warranted, like the one adopted by the Women’s National Basketball Association in the United States.

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