Players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi and video analyst Mario Masha are now in the Tokyo 2020 isolation center, a statement from the South Africa team said on Sunday. A fourth member of the country’s Olympic delegation, rugby coach Neil Powell, also tested positive at a training camp in the southern Japanese city of Kagashimo and is isolated there.
Monyane and Mahlatsi are the first athletes to test positive during their stay at the Olympic Village, which has been set up like a bubble in hopes of preventing the spread of the disease among the 11,000 people traveling from around the world to participate in the games. According to South African officials, the positive results appeared in daily tests and the men had previously tested negative in their daily tests, as well as when they left South Africa. Less than 3% of South Africa’s 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, so they could be negative in South Africa and then positive in Japan,” said Dr. Phatho Zondi said in a statement.
All other members of the South African delegation continued to test negative.
As Japan continues to see cases and deaths of COVID-19, authorities last week banned all spectators from attending the games. But with thousands of athletes and support staff traveling the country, fears that the Olympics could become a big-ticket event persist, even the Emperor of Japan has reportedly expressed concern.
Meanwhile, Olympic leaders have continued to say the competition is safe. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Thursday that even with infections there was a “zero” risk of the virus spreading, underscoring the testing and isolation measures in place.
“The risk to other residents of the Olympic Village and the risk to the Japanese people are zero,” he said.