Tokyo 2020 Appoints Expert Group for COVID-19 Countermeasures

(ATR) The organizing committee unveiled a number of new initiatives following its latest Executive Board meeting.

(ATR) The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee unveiled a number of new initiatives following its latest Executive Board meeting on Monday with 88 days to go until the hotly-debated Summer Games.

As COVID-19 infection numbers have increased across a number of prefectures, with many citing virus fatigue and a reluctance from commuters to work from home, Japan imposed a third State of Emergency on Sunday in the host city of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo. The State of Emergency is aimed at quickly suppressing a fourth wave of the virus and will be in effect until May 11 ahead of an expected visit by IOC President Thomas Bach.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Muto Toshiro said: "For COVID-19 countermeasures we have established an expert roundtable and the objective is to listen to their advice in order to ensure the implementation of a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"We have six people who are experts in infectious diseases and the first meeting will take place on April 30 with the aim of conducting four roundtable meetings before the Olympics."

Muto explained that gender equality and diversity was high up on the agenda in Monday’s meeting on a day when 425 new COVID-19 cases were announced in Tokyo and 924 in Osaka.

"We talked about gender equality and diversity to follow the last board meeting when we talked about our new initiatives which need to be visible and tangible. We have to connect this movement to our legacy. We talked more specifically about visible initiatives and discussed the generational movement. We will setup a Tokyo 2020 declaration with feedback from board members and discussions with stakeholders. Tokyo 2020 is planning to make the declaration in May."

Muto also outlined the further work that must be undertaken by the Japanese Olympic Committee, Japan Paralympic Committee, and Tokyo 2020 following their tri-party meeting on April 20.

"These three organizations need to collaborate and determine how we can disseminate the voices of the athletes, this was discussed quite actively. In the athlete committee the power of sports and the meaning of holding the Games was discussed and a summary was shared and we would like to disseminate this content to show the passion of the athletes.

"We need to assume that there will be people who will be tested positive and what measures will we take? We need to present this scenario clearly. That was one comment made. Also, among the athletes there are people who will be some staying at the Olympic village while some athletes will stay at accommodation outside Olympic village and to such athletes, a level of strict management and control will be necessary. The collection of information has to be done thoroughly.

"Also, regarding COVID-19 countermeasures, athletes will be tested when entering Japan and they will manage their health conditions prior to arriving and then when they arrive back in their home country we’ll still need to follow up on their health condition."

Muto shared an update on the progress of the Olympic Torch Relay which has already been affected by the pandemic with routes altered and last week the organizers announced that a policeman tested positive for COVID-19 a day after his assignment at a leg of the relay in Kagawa prefecture.

"We talked about the status of Tokyo 2020 relay which started in March in Fukushima. Today is the 33rd day of Olympic Torch Relay, right now its running in the prefecture of Miyazaki. There has been changes due to pandemic situation and there has been requests from municipalities for changes in the format.

"Thanks to the cooperation of all our partners and stakeholders we were able to respond to changes in the daily situation with a top priority on safety.

"We will continue to work to ensure that people around the nation can safely watch the relay and we’ll be striving to work with the operating committees of the prefectures we’ll be visiting for a smooth implementation of the relay."

Muto answered a number of questions from the media and confirmed reports that the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has requested support from the Japan Nursing Association to provide 500 nurses in Games time.

"We will be asking for cooperation from nurses, we have communicated this point for a while and yes we did make a kind request to the association to offer us 500 nurses. The key aim is not to deteriorate the local situation. We need to be flexible with work hours and shift operation and contact stakeholders to come up with a feasible way to secure these resources."

Muto would not be drawn on specifics about a policy for spectators but said that an update could be announced this week.

"Eventually we’ll need to coordinate the cap on spectators in the venue, for the final decision we have to take everyone into consideration and from last year we have been preparing for this. We need to give time to our stakeholders to make necessary actions.

"From the board there was no comments raised regarding spectator numbers and as you pointed out in April some kind of direction should be presented. If possible at around April 28 we would like to summarize and communicate, with attention to one major change in the conditions. Last month when we talked about this topic, the State of Emergency had ended and we didn’t expect another State of Emergency, based on current declaration we will coordinate fully before coming to a decision."

Homepage photo: ATR

Written and reported by Mark Pickering in Tokyo

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