Tokyo Paralympics in lockdown as Japan reports record wave of COVID

Tokyo Paralympics organisers tighten Covid rules by putting more restrictions on movement and increasing testing as Japan battles record wave of infections

  • There are already 131 cases recorded among Paralympic athletes
  • Japan has reported more than 25,000 daily cases nationwide in recent days
  • Staff at the Paralympic Village must now be tested daily
  • Athletes must remain alone in their accommodation and cannot talk to anyone 
  • Team GB athletes said restrictions impacted their mental health at the Olympics
  • 227 athletes will compete for Paralympics GB in 19 of the 22 sports in Tokyo 
  • Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here

The Tokyo Paralympics was plunged into lockdown just days before the opening ceremony as event organisers cracked down on virus rules amid a record wave of infections in Japan.

The Games open on Tuesday after a year-long pandemic delay and an Olympics which was scarcely attended and heavily restricted due to existing Coronavirus regulations.

Olympic organisers have reported 547 cases linked to the Games since July 1, but there are already 131 cases among Paralympic athletes two days prior to the opening ceremony.   

Japan has reported more than 25,000 daily cases nationwide in recent days, even with multiple regions including Tokyo under virus states of emergency. 

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said Sunday ‘taking further careful measures is necessary’, and introduced a host of highly restrictive rules in an attempt to control the spread of the virus which has already infected many athletes. 

The Paralympics will be held at the same venues that hosted the Olympics just weeks earlier, but new restrictions mean even fewer events will be attended

The restrictions mean athletes must remain alone throughout the competition in their hotels , must eat separately from team-mates, and cannot even speak to each other

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said Sunday ‘taking further careful measures is necessary’, and introduced a host of highly restrictive rules to curb the spread of the virus

Paralympics participants, like their Olympic counterparts, are governed by so-called playbooks that mandate mask-wearing, daily tests for athletes, and limits on movement. 

Japan-based staff at the Paralympic Village must now be tested daily, and a rule allowing some participants to travel on public transport and move around freely after 14 days of restrictions has been scrapped.

Participants will be forced to reside alone in the Olympic village or their hotels and will not even be permitted to speak to anyone.

‘We ask them to take meals in facilities inside the Olympic venues or hotels they are staying at, eating individually without talking,’ Muto said.

‘As to places they can visit, we ask them to limit that to places on their list of work.’

Previously, some participants had been able to use public transport and move around without prior authorisation after 14 days in the country.

Olympic athletes who competed in Japan weeks earlier meanwhile have said that restrictions impacted their mental health and could adversely affect performance. 

In a recent interview on the James Smith Podcast, Team GB 400m sprinter Laviai Nielsen said that the extensive periods of isolation from team-mates, being confined to her quarters and only being allowed out once a day to train posed a significant mental health challenge, which led her to seek support from her sports psychologist.

‘We ask them to take meals in facilities inside the Olympic venues or hotels they are staying at, eating individually without talking,’ Muto said

Team GB 400m sprinter Laviai Nielsen has been open about the mental health challenges of competing in an Olympic Games amid severe coronavirus restrictions

Becca Meyers, a 26-year-old blind and deaf athlete who has won medals in past Paralympics, pulled out of these Games after saying US officials would not let her have her mother, who is also her personal care assistant, with her.

Most of the people linked to the Paralympics who have tested positive so far are Japan-based Games staff and contractors, though four athletes and 10 media workers have also tested positive.

Japan’s overall virus outbreak remains relatively small compared with some hard-hit nations, with around 15,500 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.

But the country’s vaccine roll-out started slowly and officials are now racing to inoculate residents, with only 40 percent of the population fully vaccinated. 

Despite the difficulties, athletes know their involvement here can be huge for their sport’s profile. The Games, which include badminton and taekwondo as new sports, are expected to break viewing records with an estimated cumulative global TV audience of 4.25 billion. 

There are more broadcasters than ever before, increased levels of coverage and more live broadcasts. Channel 4 will provide 300 hours, with more than 1,000 hours on 16 live streams.

Paralympics events are organised around 10 types of physical, vision and intellectual impairment recognised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Eight of these are physical, such as impaired muscle power or involuntary movements caused by conditions like cerebral palsy or a spinal cord injury.

Also on the list are muscle tension, short stature and the partial or total absence of a limb from birth, or as a consequence of trauma or illness.

While most of the sports have an Olympic equivalent, two do not: goalball, a team sport for athletes with visual impairments, and boccia, which is similar to boules. 

Tokyo Paralympics by the numbers

  •  Around 4,400 competitors from nearly 160 countries and territories will be in Japan for the Paralympics, with 12,000 staff, officials and journalists also taking part in the 13-day event
  • Tokyo is the only city ever to host the Paralympic Games twice. 
  • At the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics, 378 athletes competed in nine sports at six venues
  • Around 5,000 gold, silver and bronze Paralympic medals have been produced for the Games, featuring the words ‘Tokyo 2020’ written in Braille
  • China has topped the gold medal table at every Paralympic Games since Athens 2004
  •  A record 4.1 billion cumulative viewers tuned in to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, up from the 3.8 billion who watched London 2012, the IPC says
  • This year, free-to-air coverage will be provided to 49 territories in sub-Saharan Africa, to grow the Games’ global audience and tackle disability stigma

 Source: AFP

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