Olympic coronavirus protocols may not protect athletes

Olympic coronavirus protocols may not protect athletes

Some scientists draw attention to the security protocols on the 2021 Olympics, according to them still lacking today, with rules that are not always stringent and not based on the best scientific evidence

(photo: Free-Photos via Pixabay) The pandemic changed our lives and created collective social precedents that never occurred: an example is that of the 2020 Olympics, postponed for the first time in history from 2020 to 2021. And even today, after postponing a year and approaching of the starting date of the games, which will be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, some doubts persist especially in Japan, even if the country has officially confirmed the Olympics. An article published on May 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine (Nejm) focuses on possible persistent risks, even more than a year after the onset of the pandemic. The US scientists who wrote the article, which is part of the group from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explain why some protocols currently adopted for the Olympics are not sufficient to minimize the risks. For this reason, they draw the attention of the World Health Organization to the need to immediately convene an emergency committee.

The Olympics in numbers

Japan, the authors write in the text, is still in a state of emergency with a total of 70 thousand positive cases (not the daily cases but the active totals) and currently less than 5% of the national population has been vaccinated. About 11 thousand athletes will compete and give their best in their sporting performance in the next Olympics, accompanied and helped by 4 thousand operators. A month later, another 5,000 Paralympic athletes, together with the staff, will participate in the Paralympic Games.

The Playbooks, the guide for athletes, are insufficient

To give the rules, not only of the Olympic game but also of safety, are the Playbooks - literally booklets, a bit like of instruction booklets - an official guide of the International Olympic Committee (CIO) which also contains the rules to reduce the risks of Covid-19, as explained by Coni. The rules provide for the use of masks and the carrying out of some tampons for each sportsman and staff member even after arriving in Japan and encourage (but do not require) athletes and staff to vaccinate.

In the absence of a vaccination obligation and considering that vaccination will not yet be available for minors in many countries, the authors draw attention to the need to review the safety framework. "The Playbooks of the IOC Committee are not based on a rigorous risk assessment at a scientific level", write the authors of the article on the Nejm, "and improperly do not consider the ways in which exposure can occur [to the virus ed.] the factors contributing to this exposure and which participants may be at greater risk ”. Scientists do not see major risks of complications in healthy athletes, while indicating that more attention should be paid to staff and Paralympic athletes.

Major problems

For example, it is not foreseen in the Playbooks to outline a scale of the level of risk for the different sports activities, perhaps associating different protective and preventive measures: outdoor competitions and in which athletes are at a distance, such as sailing, are at low risk, while team games at closed, such as volleyball or rugby, are associated with a higher probability of contact and therefore of possible contagion. In other games or championships, moreover, there are strict and more stringent organization and rules: the swab is done at least once a day, each athlete continuously uses the contact tracing apps and sleeps in a single room, with attention also to what happens after the competition. Although the use of the apps is foreseen and compulsorily required, it must be pointed out that often during the competitions it is not possible to have them with you.

For all these reasons, the authors request an urgent WHO action, with an emergency health and safety committee on this pandemic. And it would not be the first time that WHO has moved in this direction: already in the 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games in Brazil in the health emergency Zika - which fortunately was not a pandemic - has adopted this approach.

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App contact tracing Coronavirus Japan Sport Zika globalData.fldTopic = "App contact tracing, Coronavirus, Japan, Sport, Zika"

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