The Tokyo Olympics organising committee confirmed the Games’ first COVID-19 cluster infection on Wednesday, as 12 members of Greece’s artistic swimming delegation were moved out of the athletes’ village and into isolation.
According to officials, four athletes and one team official tested positive. Another seven were found to be negative but were relocated away from the village.
“Some [of the seven] have already been designated as close contacts, while the status of the others is still being determined,” Tokyo Olympics organizing committee spokesman Masa Takaya said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
“In view of this situation, we proposed to the Greek Olympic committee that the seven should immediately be transferred to a holding facility outside the Olympic village.”
“I have to say it is a cluster,” Takaya said, adding that it was the first one of the games.
Greece’s Olympic committee had previously announced the positive cases, which caused swimmers Evangelia Papazoglou and Evangelia Platanioti to withdraw from the duet event on Tuesday. Greek swimmers will also not be able to participate in the team event, which begins Friday.
The confirmation came on the same day that organisers announced their highest daily total of cases related to the Olympics, with 29 people testing positive. The majority were local contractors, along with volunteers and government officials. Another foreign athlete tested positive, but organisers did not specify where he was from.
Since the start of the Games, there have been 322 Olympic-related cases.
Due to a surge in COVID-19 infections, Tokyo remains in a state of emergency. The Japanese capital set a new single-day high of 4,166 new cases on Wednesday, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, breaking the previous record of just over 4,000 set on Saturday.
Spectators have been banned from most events, with competitions playing out in mostly empty arenas.
Takaya stated on Wednesday that over 500,000 COVID-19 screening tests have been administered to individuals associated with the Olympics.
The organisers of the Games stated that they believed the cluster outbreak in the athlete’s village would not diminish the sense of safety surrounding the Games.
“The [WHO] Director-General [Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] said that we can never, in any case, anywhere, say that there will be no infections — that’s just impossible,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said on Wednesday.
“What is important is how you deal with it, and working with the WHO we’ve come up with very good protocols…I hope, particularly with the [500,000] tests we’ve now carried out, that people will have confidence in these Games.”
Greece’s Paraskevi Papachristou competes during the triple jump qualifier on July 30. Photo by Richard Ellis