Nigerian delegate first Tokyo Games visitor hospitalized with COVID-19

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Photo taken April 6, 2021, shows the Olympic rings in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. North Korea said the same day that it will not take part in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo to protect its athletes from the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

A member of the Nigerian Tokyo Olympics delegation became the first Olympics visitor admitted to hospital with COVID-19, Japan’s TV Asahi reported on Friday, as Japan battles to stem rising local infections with the Games a week away.

The person, a non-athlete in their 60s, tested positive on Thursday evening at the airport and had only mild symptoms but was hospitalized because of their age and pre-existing conditions, TV Asahi said, without giving further details.

Earlier in the day, the Australian Olympic Committee said that Australian tennis player Alex de Minaur, ranked 15th in the world, had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his departure for the Tokyo Olympics, the latest athlete to see his Olympics dream shattered by the virus.

U.S. basketball star Bradley Beal’s Olympic dream was cut abruptly short on Thursday when USA Basketball announced the Washington Wizards star will miss the Tokyo Games after he entered coronavirus protocols at the training camp in Las Vegas.

Several COVID-19 cases have emerged involving athletes and others involved with the Games, which start July 23, even as infections spread in Tokyo and experts warn worse may lie ahead.

Tokyo is under a state of emergency for the pandemic, but most steps to curb its spread are voluntary and many people say they have grown weary of complying.

De Minaur returned two positive tests in Spain before he was due to fly to Japan, David Hughes, the AOC’s chief medical officer, told a news conference.

Organizers have promised that the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, will be “safe and secure” and imposed strict testing regimes and limits on delegates activities to try to soothe concerns amongst the general public, many of whom wanted the Games canceled or postponed again.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Thursday there was “zero” risk of Games participants infecting Japanese residents with COVID-19, as cases hit a six-month high in the host city.

However, Japanese Olympic gold medalist turned chief of the Japan Sports Agency, Koji Murofushi, told Reuters on Friday that Olympics organizers needed flexibility and swift decision-making in reacting to the spread of COVID-19 infections.

“It’s possible that even after the Olympics start, there will be situations where we’ll need to add measures to prevent the spread of infections – and if that’s the case, we have to be flexible enough to act swiftly,” said Murofushi, 46, a gold and bronze medalist in the hammer throw.

The Tokyo Games will be held without spectators at most venues, and officials are urging the public to stay home and watch on TV, depriving Japan of its hopes for a Games with pomp and public spectacle.

 

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