Paralympics organisers tighten virus rules as cases surge

Sports Tokyo 2020

The Paralympic Games open in Tokyo on August 24, after a year-long pandemic delay (Charly TRIBALLEAU/AFP/File)
The Paralympic Games open in Tokyo on August 24, after a year-long pandemic delay (Charly TRIBALLEAU/AFP/File)

Tokyo (AFP)

Tokyo Paralympics organisers said Sunday they were tightening virus rules, including upping testing and further limiting movement, as Japan battles a record wave of infections days before the opening ceremony.

The Games open on Tuesday after a year-long pandemic delay and following the Olympics, which ended on August 8 and was hailed by organisers as proof their virus rules worked.

Olympic organisers have reported 547 cases linked to the Games since July 1, but there are already 131 cases among Paralympics participants with two days until the opening ceremony.

And Japan has reported more than 25,000 daily cases nationwide in recent days, even with multiple regions including Tokyo under virus states of emergency.

Paralympics participants, like their Olympic counterparts, are governed by so-called playbooks that mandate mask-wearing, daily tests for athletes, and limits on movement.

But Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said Sunday "taking further careful measures is necessary".

These will include requiring Japan-based staff at the Paralympic Village -- currently being tested every four days -- to be tested daily.

And a rule allowing some participants to travel on public transport and move around freely after 14 days of restrictions will be scrapped.

"We ask them to take meals in facilities inside the Olympic venues or hotels they are staying at, eating individually without talking," Muto said.

"As to places they can visit, we ask them to limit that to places on their list of work."

Previously, some participants had been able to use public transport and move around without prior authorisation after 14 days in the country.

Most of those linked to the Paralympics who have tested positive so far are Japan-based Games staff and contractors, though four athletes and 10 media workers have also tested positive.

Japan's overall virus outbreak remains relatively small compared with some hard-hit nations, with around 15,500 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.

But the country's vaccine roll-out started slowly and officials are now racing to inoculate residents, with around 40 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

© 2021 AFP

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