TOKYO – The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee will likely consider the option of conducting coronavirus tests on participating athletes every day, instead of every four days as currently planned, in the wake of new virus variants spreading, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.
The organizers are expected to look into whether an increase in the costs and manpower needed for giving COVID-19 tests daily could be kept to an acceptable level without affecting the general public’s access to the tests, the sources said.
The organizers, the Tokyo metropolitan government and related agencies of the Japanese government may also see if athletes at pre-games training camps and host towns could also be tested daily for the new coronavirus, they said.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Japanese organizing committee, said on March 9 the frequency of testing will likely increase from every four days following the emergence of new virus variants.
In December, a government-led panel tasked with providing coronavirus countermeasures stated in an interim report that testing for the virus on athletes will take place every 96 to 120 hours in principle.
The first edition of the playbook for athletes released by the organizers in February said tests will be conducted at least once every four days.
The International Olympic Committee has also been calling for the testing scheme to be ramped up after tests on the virus took place almost daily at the handball’s World Championships in January and the Australian Open tennis tournament in February.
Vaccination for the coronavirus will not be a requirement for athletes competing at the Tokyo Games, leaving the organizers with the tests and movement control of athletes as the basis for its effort to avoid the spread of the virus.
IOC President Thomas Bach on Thursday said the Chinese Olympic Committee had offered to provide vaccine doses for athletes at the Tokyo Games, but it remains to be seen which athletes they will be for.
The Japanese government and the games organizers hope to detect those infected at the earliest opportunity and quarantine them to prevent the spread of the virus.