The Irish team travelling to Tokyo will be ‘pretty much fully vaccinated,’ according to the Chief Medical officer with the Olympic Federation of Ireland Dr Jim O’Donovan.

Answering a question posed by Sport for Business at an Olympics media day yesterday he said that at least 90 per cent of those travelling and maybe as high as 95 per cent would be fully vaccinated, a figure that stands good comparison to others including the United States where an estimated 40 per cent of those travelling may have rejected vaccination.

There, some of the main issues were political though here, following a strong education programme on the benefits, the reason for some not getting the vaccine will be down more to logistics and timing of side effects within the training programme.

O’Donovan revealed that an annual flu vaccination programme for athletes normally had a sixty per cent take up so he was happy that the number protecting against Covid was so high.

Ireland’s athletes were given Pfizer vaccines as part of an agreement with the International Olympic Committee and from a batch that was over and above the allocation granted to Ireland as a whole.

The team of athletes is expected to be just short of 110 with around a similar number travelling in support roles.

The team will be travelling over the coming days with around ten different planes carrying the team, though restrictions in Japan are not as strict in terms of isolation where a passenger on a plane tests positive.

Team Ireland will be travelling business class on Qatar Airways as part of a partnership signed in February 2020. The Olympic federation will be meeting some of the costs of the tickets but the business class will assist in maintaining social distancing in transit.

The eight hours on the plane are identified as being one of the pinch points in protecting against contraction of the virus which at this stage so close to the games would be a disaster for an athlete that has devoted their life so far to reach this point in their sporting career.

Were it to happen, with mild or no symptoms, the accepted return to activity timeline is seventeen days though the impact on performance is unknown.

“The real risk begins now as they set to out for Japan. These pinch points along the journey from here to the Games, and coming back will be crucial. From 14 days prior to travel, their health status is being monitored, as a Tokyo organising committee requirement.

“Going through an eight-hour flight in an enclosed space is obviously the highest risk event for the event, so coming off the flight they are immediately tested at the airport, then in a quasi-quarantine state for about three days after, where they have to limit their contact with other people. Then there’s the village, transport, and room sharing as well.”

We can only hope now that Covid is only a footnote to the games and not once more a sporting headline.


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