(Australian Associated Press)
Quarantine arrangements for Australia’s Tokyo-bound Olympians will soon be finalised as the contingent’s chief medico downplayed the prospect of false positive COVID-19 tests derailing dreams.
The Games, having been delayed and in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic, are set to begin on July 23.
Australia’s team of approximately 480 athletes will follow strict protocols prior to departing and during their time in Japan, then enter hotel quarantine upon returning home.
Most athletes will arrive five days prior to competing then depart Tokyo within 24-48 hours of their final event, with a group of rowers on July 29 set to be the first returnees.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has been in talks with state governments regarding quarantine places for athletes, support staff and officials during the fly-in fly-out Games.
Australia’s 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 return outside the cap on return travellers, as was the case with the Indian Premier League cricketers.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll told a media briefing on Tuesday quarantine arrangements should be announced at the “back end of this week or next week”.
The AOC is expecting 98 per cent of its Tokyo team will be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Doctor David Hughes, Australia’s chief medical officer for Tokyo 2021, suggested the Olympians’ experience could help the federal government review its quarantine approach for vaccinated travellers.
“This will be the biggest cohort of fully-vaccinated individuals going away to a medium-risk environment,” Hughes said.
“A fully-vaccinated cohort of over 1,000 people … it provides an interesting opportunity for the Australian government to have a look at what the infection rates are.
“This unique situation could help inform future policy settings … that’s an interesting spin-off for the Australian public.”
Everybody in the Tokyo Olympics biosecurity bubble will provide daily saliva samples as part of a three-tiered testing system for COVID-19.
A Results Advisory Expert Group will examine results, determining whether it is a historical positive or confirmed infectious case.
The group’s interpretation could hypothetically be the difference between winning a gold medal and being barred from competition.
Australian athletes who previously tested positive for COVID-19 have been told to bring detailed pathology results, as that data could help ensure they quickly get the green light to compete.
Hughes predicted the prospect of false positives which have popped up at the Australian Open and numerous sporting events in the past year forcing Australians out of competition, was “very, very very small”.
“It’ll be more of an issue for other countries,” he said.
“But we’re not complacent.”