Sports officials in Canada are calling for Canadian athletes headed to Japan to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics to get priority access in the vaccination program and receive two doses prior to leaving for Tokyo.
David Bedford, CEO of Athletics Canada, said it’s in the “national interest” of Canada to have all athletes and support staff fully vaccinated as they are representing the country on the world’s largest athletic stage.
On Tuesday, the Australian government said all of its athletes and support staff would be vaccinated, ahead of many others, to allow them to compete safely at the Games. Many other countries have also done the same.
The calls for Canadian athletes to receive priority vaccinations come in the wake of Wednesday’s second “playbook” announcement by the International Olympic Committee.
With parts of Japan, including Tokyo, in a state of emergency and a third wave ravaging the country, the IOC unveiled its second of three playbooks outlining how it will attempt to keep athletes and support staff safe during the Tokyo Games.
The biggest change from the first playbook, released in February, is that athletes will now be tested daily, a change from every four days, and have to provide two negative tests prior to leaving their home countries for the Games.
Other restrictions include athletes, coaches and support staff will not be allowed to use public transport and will have to eat in specific locations with special hygiene measures.
Vaccinations are not mandatory and while sports officials in Canada are calling for priority treatment, the Canadian Olympic Committee says its position hasn’t changed on vaccines.
“We maintain that Canada’s front-line workers and most vulnerable populations should be the priority for vaccinations,” said David Shoemaker, CEO of the COC. “With the growing numbers of vaccines available to Canadians, we are hopeful that athletes will have access to them prior to Tokyo, which would provide an additional layer of protection to the significant countermeasures that have been put in place.”
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the playbook upgrades in testing are an improvement, but he adds the plan is still not foolproof and not immune to outbreaks during the Olympics and Paralympics. Dr. Bogoch believes that the timeline of when someone contracts the virus is an important education on how COVID-19 spreads.
“Let’s say someone is exposed to COVID, it can be anywhere from two to five days before people start shedding the virus,” he said. Dr. Bogoch said that means an athlete could test negative twice before leaving but be positive upon arriving in Tokyo because of the incubation period.
Earlier this week, Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu revealed she tested positive for COVID-19 despite having two negative tests before leaving for an event in Madrid.
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