Olympics: IOC president says he understands Tokyo's Covid-19 emergency move

Thomas Bach told organisers that compliance with the playbooks would be strictly enforced. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP) - Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), on Wednesday (April 28) said he fully understood the decision to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and was committed to holding a safe, successful Games.

He was speaking at the start of a meeting with Tokyo 2020 organisers to finalise the second edition of the "playbooks" of rules for the Summer Games, with less than three months to go and Japan battling a surge of coronavirus cases.

Parts of Japan including the capital were put under another state of emergency at the weekend, and most of the Japanese public think the Games, postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, should be cancelled or postponed again.

The emergency, which is due to last until May 11, requires restaurants and bars serving alcohol to close along with large stores, cinemas and other commercial facilities, asks firms to let staff work from home, and excludes spectators from big sports events.

Speaking by video link, Bach told organisers, including Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto, that he understood the move, and that compliance with the playbooks, which lay out a number of anti-infection measures, would be strictly enforced.

"The IOC is fully committed to the successful and safe delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said.

An earlier edition of the rules, which came out in February, banned singing and chanting during events and mandated that event participants wear masks at all times except when sleeping, eating or outdoors.

Spectators from overseas have already been excluded, but more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and their entourages are expected in July.

All participants will need to take two coronavirus tests before they arrive in Japan.

While in the country, athletes and coaches will undergo virus testing on a daily basis, up from a previous plan for tests every four days. Officials who come into close contact with athletes will also need to be tested every day.

A decision on the number of domestic spectators allowed into venues will only take place in June.

Though Japan has not suffered as badly from Covid-19 as many other countries, the infection rate has risen back to levels not seen since January, and more and more are from variant strains. On Wednesday, Tokyo reported 925 new cases.

The Games run from July 23 to Aug 8.

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