A total of 21 members of the South African men’s soccer team for the Tokyo Olympics were identified as close contacts by three other members who tested positive for the corona virus during their stay in the athletes’ village, the organizing committee of the games announced on Monday.

The number of COVID-19 cases among athletes competing in the Olympics starting Friday is rising during a training camp near Tokyo.

The photo from a Kyodo News helicopter shows the athletes’ village for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo on July 18, 2021. (Kyodo)

The South Africans, identified as close contacts, will be allowed to play against Japan on Thursday, the night before the opening ceremony, if they get negative results on their polymerase chain reaction tests within six hours of the game.

The three infected South African soccer team members – players James Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi and a video analyst – were the first confirmed cases on Sunday among Olympic teams in the village in the port area of ​​Tokyo.

Most of the 21 close contacts are players, according to the organizing committee, with spokesman Masanori Takaya saying “adjustments will be made with bodies including FIFA” regarding the conduct of the game.

FIFA requires at least 13 players on each side for a game to take place.

According to the Olympic Playbook, which sets the safety rules for coronavirus, close contacts are only allowed to enter after they have returned negative daily PCR tests, underwent an expert health check, and received approval from the International Sports Federation.

The organizers and the Japanese government have insisted that despite the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible to safely run the Olympics by implementing strict anti-virus measures.

Brian McCloskey, a health expert who advises the International Olympic Committee, told a press conference Monday that the athletes’ village is safe because the people who live there are regularly tested for the virus.

He also said the 58 COVID-19 cases confirmed in people related to the Olympics in July and announced by the Organizing Committee were something he expected and possibly lower than forecast.

He said he believed the Games will not help spread the virus in Japan, but added that it was impossible to predict what the infection situation will be after the Games end on August 8th.

The South African Rugby Union, meanwhile, said the country’s rugby sevens coach Neil Powell hired his team during his Olympic campaign on Jan.

Officials from the city of Kagoshima, where the team is having a week-long training camp, said Sunday they had confirmed negative test results for the other 19 players and staff in the South African squad who won bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

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