AOC to finalize post-Tokyo quarantine plan
Quarantine arrangements for Australian Olympians bound for Tokyo will soon be finalized, as the contingent chief medical officer downplayed the prospect of false positive COVID-19 tests derailing dreams.
The Games, delayed and uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, are expected to begin on July 23.
The Australian team of around 480 athletes will follow strict protocols before departure and during their stay in Japan, and then enter hotel quarantine upon their return home.
Most athletes will arrive five days before the competition and then leave Tokyo within 24 to 48 hours of their final event, with a group of rowers on July 29 who will be the first to return.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has been in talks with state governments regarding quarantine locations for athletes, support staff and officials during the Games by plane.
Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman told AAP in March that Sydney and Brisbane would be the most likely bases.
The majority of Olympians are expected to come back outside the return traveler cap, as happened with cricketers in the Indian Premier League.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll told a press conference on Tuesday that the quarantine provisions are expected to be announced at “the end of this week or next week.”
The AOC expects 98% of its Tokyo team to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr David Hughes, Australian chief medical officer for Tokyo 2021, has suggested that the Olympians’ experience could help the federal government revise its approach to quarantine for vaccinated travelers.
“This will be the largest cohort of fully vaccinated individuals to leave in a medium risk environment,” said Hughes.
“A fully vaccinated cohort of over 1,000 people… this offers an exciting opportunity for the Australian government to gain insight into infection rates.
“This unique situation could help inform future policy settings… it’s an interesting spinoff for the Australian public.”
Everyone in the Tokyo Olympics biosecurity bubble will provide daily saliva samples as part of a three-tier testing system for COVID-19.
An expert findings advisory group will review the findings and determine whether this is a historically positive or confirmed infectious case.
The group’s interpretation could hypothetically make the difference between winning a gold medal and being excluded from the competition.
Australian athletes who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 were asked to bring detailed pathology results, as this data could help them quickly get the green light to compete.
Hughes predicted that the prospect of false positives, which have surfaced at the Australian Open and many sporting events over the past year forcing Australians out of competition, was “very, very, very low”.
“It will be more of a problem for other countries,” he said.
“But we are not complacent.”