/ 30 July 2021

COVID scare for Aussie athletes

The Aussie athletics team was briefly locked down yesterday after US pole vaulting world champion Sam Kendricks tested positive for COVID. Our 63 track and field athletes were told to isolate over concerns of contact with Kendricks, but after testing negative, most of the team was cleared. Those still under restrictions despite returning negative tests are pole vaulters Kurtis Marschall and Nina Kennedy and coach Paul Burgess after they identified themselves as close contacts of Kendricks. It couldn’t come at a worse time as the athletics program starts today with pole vaulting on Saturday. Outside the athlete’s village, COVID is making things difficult for Japanese officials.

You mean other than more glorious medals for Australia? COVID cases are soaring. On Wednesday, new daily cases across Japan topped 9,000 for the first time, with the bulk of new infections coming from the 4 areas of Tokyo that are hosting the Games. Across Tokyo, 3,177 new cases were reported on Wednesday – the most of any day since the start of the pandemic last year. It means cases have more than doubled since the first full day of Games events last Saturday. The rise in infections is driven by the Delta variant and is something health experts flagged could happen, but reports say it’s unclear to what extent the Olympics has driven the uptick, if at all. It spells trouble for PM Yoshihide Suga, who is battling low polling numbers ahead of an election later this year.

Not so fast, Ariarne Titmus… Reports say locals are warming to the Games after months of polls showing significant concerns about the Olympics coming to town. Spectators are banned from most venues, but with Japanese athletes enjoying a gold rush, locals are gathering to watch and cheer from places where they can see the events. That’s something authorities aren’t happy about – they’ve urged people to stay home and watch events on the telly. Experts say the decision to go ahead with the Olympics sent a confusing message and poses a greater risk than any direct spread of the virus from Olympic participants. Still, winners are grinners, at this point anyway…

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