• Olympics & Paralympics

Japan planning to strengthen border controls for Olympics

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Athletes of the Ugandan Olympic team walk toward a bus bound for Osaka Prefecture at Narita Airport on June 20.

Following the recent discovery that a member of Uganda’s national team was infected with the novel coronavirus, the government and Tokyo Olympic organizing committee are considering setting up facilities at airports to identify people who have been in close contact with infected people.

This measure is being considered because people who may have been in close contact with the Ugandan athlete were not isolated but allowed to freely travel elsewhere in the nation, despite the athlete’s positive result in a coronavirus test at airport quarantine.

The government and the organizing committee plan to set up the facilities, tentatively named airport liaison facilities, in such places as Narita and Haneda airports.

If an athlete or other member of an Olympic national team tests positive for the virus in airport quarantine, staff at the airport liaison facilities would quickly confirm seating information for the plane that person was aboard. They would then identify people who may have been in close contact with the infected person, and guide national team members through the airport so they will not interact with other passengers.

The government and the organizing committee plan to dispatch to Narita and Haneda airports employees of private companies that will be commissioned by the organizing committee.

Until recently, detailed checks about people who may have been in close contact with infected persons were not done at airports — this work was left to public health centers in the municipalities hosting foreign teams. Therefore, foreign athletes could move to host municipalities without those who may have been in close contact with infected persons being put into quarantine.

The airport liaison facilities would identify plane passengers in an area from two rows in front to two rows behind the seat of an infected person.

Those suspected of being in close contact with an infected person would be separated from the team, and transported in buses exclusive for the purpose. Immediately after arriving in a host municipality, they would be isolated at an accommodation facility.

Staff of public health centers and other authorities would interview the suspected persons, and make a final judgment on whether they should be regarded as having been in close contact with the infected person.

The government and the organizing committee are also considering the option of not transporting suspected people to host municipalities, and instead having them stay in facilities designated by the organizing committee or other authorities so their health can be monitored there.