June 28, 2021 at 12:35 JST
Members of Uganda’s national team board a bus at Narita Airport on June 20. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Blatant defects have already been exposed in border control measures for blocking the novel coronavirus designed for the Tokyo Olympics.
Merely reciting the mantra of “safe and secure” Games does not make sense. What counts is putting effective measures in practice.
Overall procedures for testing and quarantining athletes and officials should be urgently reviewed and redone.
Members of Uganda’s national team who arrived in Japan have been found infected with the novel coronavirus.
All team members had been vaccinated and produced required certificates of negative test results. The virus, however, easily slipped into the country past such “immigration” barriers.
Inoculations and certificates are not supposed to guarantee 100 percent safety. The arrival of infected individuals had been predicted.
The problem lies in the manner the matter was handled after a coach tested positive in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at Narita Airport.
The coach was placed in quarantine, but other members of the Ugandan delegation headed unscreened for their training site in the “host town” of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, by chartered bus.
A Ugandan athlete tested positive four days later. Izumisano city officials who went to meet the Ugandans, the bus driver and others were recognized as having been in close contact with the athlete.
The governor of Osaka Prefecture and the mayor of Izumisano rightly raised doubts about the handling of the matter after the coach was found infected at Narita Airport.
Still, the central government insisted that members of Olympic delegations, except those found positive, should be sent to their host towns, where they should be overseen by competent public health centers.
Government officials reasoned it was difficult in physical terms to keep all those individuals at or near their airports of entry.
It would, however, be more precise to say the central government had failed to prepare for such a situation.
Many people must have been surprised and appalled to learn that the central government’s “border control measures” meant, in fact, that every part of the nation should play the role of a “border.”
It comes as little surprise that the central government has begun reviewing its setup for screening fellow travelers of infected individuals at their airports of entry and isolating any suspected close contacts. But the way the issue is being dealt with appears far from reliable.
A total of 528 local governments offered to serve as host towns for foreign national teams.
Under the pandemic, some have withdrawn their offers and others have been told by their guests that they are not coming to train in the camps. But a considerable number are still expected to play host.
It is up to the responsibility of those host towns, which comprise both municipalities and prefectures, to arrange for accommodations for their guests, conduct a study when anyone has been found infected and provide health care services. The central government has only a few roles to play, including advising the host towns on how to prepare manuals on these tasks.
Central government officials may argue that is their stance and they have given ample explanations. But the latest ruckus has practically revealed that in reality no such understanding was shared by concerned parties and no institutional setup was available that worked effectively as a whole.
What matters is preventing the spread of the virus and protecting people’s health. While it remains essential to give the widest possible publicity to infection control measures, it is also necessary to properly upgrade those measures into more reasonable and persuasive ones to better handle the spread of a powerful variant and other developments.
The latest edition of the rules of conduct for athletes and other members of Olympic delegations was recently released. But some people have pointed out that the playbook contains statements that go against Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to thoroughly separate the movements of the Olympians from those of the public.
Foreign delegations will soon be arriving in full swing even as doubts persist about the decision to hold the Olympics.
The “holes” in anti-virus measures should be filled in quickly. There is no time to waste.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 27
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