A member of Uganda’s Olympic team has tested positive for coronavirus and was barred entry into Japan, in the first detected infection among athletes arriving for the Tokyo Games, due to open in five weeks.
The athletes, who arrived on Saturday night at Tokyo’s Narita airport, were all fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca and had negative PCR tests before boarding, the Asahi newspaper reported, quoting an anonymous cabinet secretariat official.
The team member who tested positive was not identified.
Critics have raised serious question about the risks of holding the Olympics amid a pandemic. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo organisers and Japanese government insist the Games can be held safely.
The eight other members of the team left early on Sunday by chartered bus for host town Osaka, in central Japan, where Covid-19 cases are still being reported.
“Let’s all wait a minute,” opposition lawmaker Renho said. “This time, nine people arrived. For the Olympics, 100,000 people will be arriving. This is no time to be talking about how this will be a moving experience for our children.”
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a minister in charge of economic policy, told NHK TV on Sunday that the government was looking into its border controls.
Japan requires a two-week quarantine for overseas arrivals, but Olympic teams aren’t subject to the same border controls.
The Ugandan team was the second, after the Australian women’s softball team, to arrive for the Olympics, which open on 23 July.
Uganda is seeing an alarming rise in Covid-19 variants and has just tightened lockdown measures. About 590 deaths have been reported, likely an undercount, given the scarcity of testing.
The organisers are expected to decide on Monday on allowing some local fans in the stands. Plans for mass public viewing sites in Tokyo were cancelled on Saturday.
Fans from abroad were banned several months ago. Before the pandemic, Japan had been counting on the Olympics to deliver booming tourism and consumer spending.
In Japan, a state of emergency to curb the spread of the virus in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas ends on Sunday, although daily cases are still growing by several hundred.
There has been no lockdown in Japan. The emergency orders, which have lasted for most of this year, focus on having restaurants and stores close early, limiting crowd size at venues, and asking people to socially distance, work from home and wear masks.
The vaccination rate in Japan is the slowest among developed nations, with about 6% of the population fully vaccinated. Although the rollout is gradually picking up, most people are unlikely to be fully vaccinated ahead of the Olympics.
More than 14,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Japan.