Dozens of Olympic athletes and staff test positive for COVID ahead of Tokyo Games

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Watch: The remarkable moments when politics upstaged the Olympics

The cloud of coronavirus has hung over the Olympics for many months. 

The Japanese public has been lukewarm at the prospect of even holding the event, with a recent poll showing two-thirds doubt organisers can keep the Games safe during the pandemic. 

Earlier this week, a public health expert warned that the Olympic 'COVID bubble' had almost certainly broken amid fears of transmission to the wider public, while the CEO of the Tokyo Organising Committee couldn't rule out cancelling the Games at the last-minute as recently as Tuesday.

And, as the Games prepares to get underway in earnest after Friday's Opening Ceremony, new analysis shows a total of 61 athletes and staff at the Games have already tested positive for COVID.

According to figures from Our World in Data, confirmed reported cases tripled from 18 July to 19 July.

While no Team GB athletes in Japan have tested positive so far, six members of the British athletics group were earlier this week ordered to self-isolate after being identified as coming into close contact with an individual on their plane to the country who had contracted the disease.

British shooter Amber Hill has had to withdraw from the Olympic Games after testing positive for coronavirus prior to her departure to Tokyo.

While Hill says she is currently asymptomatic, her positive COVID result dashes her hopes of travelling to Japan and the British Olympic Association revealed no replacement will be sent in her place.

The number of cases shot from 19 to 61 in a single day. (Our World in Data)
The number of cases shot from 19 to 61 in a single day. (Our World in Data)

Hill is now the third member of Team GB to be ruled out of the Games after testing positive for coronavirus, following the withdrawals of tennis pair Johanna Konta and Dan Evans earlier this month.

However, Team GB stars who have been identified as close contacts of a positive COVID case have been assured they will not be banished from the Olympics.

Unease has been growing in the Olympic Village as the number of cases increases.

Watch: Positive COVID test forces Amber Hill to pull out of Tokyo Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has issued a clarification that any athletes deemed a close contact will still be able to train and compete provided they continue to submit negative PCR tests.

However, those who test positive are required to spend a mandatory 10 days in isolation, which is likely to rule the majority out of competition.

Upwards of 200 British athletes are currently resident in the Village, and while many will not attend the Opening Ceremony due to early competition schedules, others have made the decision due to COVID concerns, according to the PA news agency. It means just 30 GB athletes will take part.

Fewer than 1,000 VIPs will be present for the ceremony at the 68,000 capacity Tokyo Olympic Stadium, while spectators have been banned from attending any events after a state of emergency was declared in the capital.

Overseas visitors had already been barred from attending the Games but It had been hoped that limited numbers of Japanese spectators would still be able to attend.

Players gather on the pitch ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men's group A first round football match between Japan and South Africa at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 22, 2021. (Photo by Mariko Ishizuka / AFP) (Photo by MARIKO ISHIZUKA/AFP via Getty Images)
Players gather on the pitch ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men's group A first round football match between Japan and South Africa at an empty Tokyo Stadium. (Getty)

Games organisers last month put in place plans to allow venues to be 50% full, up to a maximum of 10,000 people.

However, after a steady rise of COVID cases in Japan, the state of emergency is set to remain in place until 22 August – a fortnight after the Games finish.

Athletes will be given smartphones for contact tracing and logging test results, while any breaking of COVID safety rules will result in disciplinary action or expulsion from the games.

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 22:  A general view of practice courts of Shiokaze Park and Tokyo Bay as Team China Women's Beach Volleyball team practices prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Practice courts of Shiokaze Park and Tokyo Bay as Team China Women's Beach Volleyball team practices prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Getty)

Athletes will also need to wear masks within venues almost at all times, including during medal ceremonies, while winners will need to put their own medals – handed to them by an official wearing disinfected gloves – around their necks.

Japanese media has reported that government adviser Shigeru Omi said Tokyo daily COVID infections may increase to 3,000 in the first week of August, more than double their recent peak. There were nearly 2,000. cases on Thursday.

Toshiro Muto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, has refused to rule out cancelling the Games at the last minute following a public health expert warning that the bubble system at the Athletes Village was "broken".

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