Return of Olympic athletes could facilitate travel for vaccinated Australians
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The return of athletes and officials to Australia after the Tokyo Olympics could lead to an easing of travel restrictions for those vaccinated against COVID-19, the Australian team’s medical director said on Tuesday.
Australia will send around 480 athletes to Japan for the Games in July and August and they, along with more than 500 officials and media, will be forced into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days upon their return home.
Dr David Hughes told a press conference that such a large group would give the government a good idea of the risk of community infection from vaccinated people entering the country.
“This is without a doubt the largest cohort of fully vaccinated individuals going to a medium risk environment,” he said.
“Coming back to Australia from overseas as a fully vaccinated cohort of over 1,000 people, I think this offers an exciting opportunity for the Australian government to gain insight into infection rates.
“This unique situation could help inform future political settings (and) it could be of great benefit to the Australian people.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in April his government was considering a system whereby people vaccinated could self-quarantine at home after traveling abroad.
Hughes said more than 98% of athletes would be vaccinated and expressed great confidence in the health protocols put in place to protect athletes and the local population from the spread of COVID-19 during the Games.
“There is no doubt that the Olympics are tough, but my intention is for all Australians to come in and out without contracting COVID-19,” he said.
“There is no guarantee with COVID but I think we have a great plan in place and I don’t expect a large number of Australian athletes to contract COVID.”
The Australian team added additional protocols to those demanded by Games organizers, including a COVID-19 test for athletes 14 days before they leave for Japan, but Hughes said preparations were not just about safety sanitary.
“We are not going there to avoid COVID, we are going there to play,” he said.
(Edited by Robert Birsel)