They spit. They wait. They wait.
According to organizers, around 30,000 people are drinking from tiny plastic vials at Olympics. This daily routine is crucial for the success of the pandemic-era Games.
For the two-week Olympics, it adds up to half a million saliva samples. These samples are collected daily for athletes who are tested at other venues in extraordinary efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s a lot of spit at 1 milliliter per test.
Contrary to this, it has been difficult for Japanese people to access such tests. Japan is the only developed nation to have discouraged widespread testing against coronavirus.
The samples of spit collected from thousands of people are kept in tubes. Each tube is then identified with a barcode. According to the Olympic organizers’ Playbook, which details anti-COVID-19 precautions, those with doubtful results are subject to another round of testing.
The tests will be performed at the Fever Clinic. This facility also treats and isolates COVID-19 infected individuals within the “Olympic Bubble.” “Close contacts” are also tested for the possibility of being infected. It is a controlled process that uses whack-amole. The number of people employed at the clinic and the details of the arrangements were not disclosed by organizers.
The coronavirus is also not a common test that requires a nose swab.
Medical experts estimate that the tests for athletes, team officials and media are free. However, they cost approximately 10,000 yen ($100 each). The cost of tests for the Japanese public is generally about the same, or even more.
Some experts in medicine are concerned that the Olympics could become a “super-preader” event. Tokyo saw an unprecedented increase in coronavirus cases each day, with 3,000 people now.
Professor Takanori Teshima from Hokkaido University who developed the tests at airports in Japan says that the main risks are in the general public getting sicker than the Olympians.
“As you all know, not everyone is going to listen or stay isolated. He said that testing upon tests was the best way to go. This is possible because the Olympics are involved. It is unrealistic to believe that this routine can be continued.”
Shosuke Takeuchi is a doctor and director at Take Clinic Shimbashi in Tokyo. He acknowledged that voluntary testing may not be enough to stop the disease from spreading. This is because the people most susceptible are the ones who don’t want testing.
There has been a lot of testing at the Olympics, which has caused a shortage. Some national teams complained that their testing kits had not arrived. Organizers quickly found additional kits.
As of Friday, 23 athletes and other workers at the Games, including security officers, have been confirmed positive. This makes a total of 225 people. The Tokyo organizers claim that the rate of positive tests at the Olympics is still relatively low at 0.02% in July. However, more than 340,000 tests have been performed so far.
COVID-19 appears to be most popular in Tokyo’s crowded streets, and not at the Olympic venues, Teshima or other media experts claim.
Professor Masaharu Itobe at the University of Toyama’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology has created a fast COVID antigen test. He believes that regular testing will eventually become more common.
He stated, “The goal is to find infected persons as quickly as possible and prevent them spreading it around all over the world.”
Masaru Kaneko is an economist and honorary professor at Keio University. He believes it’s unfair that such tests are given by day to Olympians, but they remain difficult to obtain for regular citizens.
Kaneko stated that Japanese Olympians and their staff were given preference in getting vaccinated. However, the rollout for the general population has lagging at around a quarter of the population, Kaneko shared on Twitter.
He stated, “Equality in Japan is not guaranteed as far as the right of life.”
Teshima stated that testing someone daily is a difficult and expensive task.
He said, “It’s a big contradiction.” “Why only the athletes?”