Two soccer players and a video analyst from South Africa have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Olympic Village in Tokyo — just five days before the opening ceremony of the Summer Games.
Players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi and video analyst Mario Masha are now in the Tokyo 2020 isolation facility, a Team South Africa statement said Sunday. A fourth member of the country's Olympic delegation, rugby coach Neil Powell, also tested positive while at a training camp in the city of Kagoshima in southern Japan and is in isolation there.
Monyane and Mahlatsi are the first athletes to test positive while staying at the Olympic Village, which has been set up as a bubble in hopes of preventing the spread of disease among the 11,000 people traveling from around the world to compete in the games. According to South African officials, the positive results came up in daily testing, and the men had previously tested negative on their daily tests, as well as when they departed South Africa. Less than 3% of the South African population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"The timing of the positive results suggests that the PCR test in these individuals was done during the incubation period of the infection, which is how they could be negative in South Africa and then positive in Japan," Team South Africa's chief medical officer, Dr. Phatho Zondi, said in a statement.
All other members of the South African delegation have continued to test negative.
As Japan continues to see COVID-19 cases and deaths, officials last week banned any spectators from attending the games. But with thousands of athletes and support staff traveling into the country, fear that the Olympics could become a superspreader event remains, with even Japan's emperor reportedly voicing concern.
Since July 1, 55 people associated with the games have tested positive, most of them contractors.
Meanwhile, Olympic leaders have continued to say the competition is safe. On Thursday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that even with infections, there was "zero" risk that the virus would spread, pointing to the testing and isolation measures in place.
"Risk for the other residents of Olympic Village and risk for the Japanese people is zero," he said.