Opinion: Bringing COVID into the Olympics? Good luck with that

OPINION: Much has been made of the risks Japan is taking by holding the Olympic Games in two weeks' time, but less has been reported on what measures the country is actually taking to stop the virus from spreading, when the world arrives over the next 11 days.

Even before boarding the plane to Narita, our Newshub team has been subject to a significant number of requirements to prove we won't bring COVID with us.

We've been told to produce two COVID-19 swabs within 96 and 72 hours of departure. Hard copies are then provided to officials on arrival.

Then there's the mountain of phone applications we have had to download in order to operate here - I've counted six on my phone so far. These range from health reporting to Bluetooth tracking, so Tokyo2020 knows where foreign travellers are at all times.

On arrival at Narita Airport, we expected more hurdles to jump through and we were right. As soon as we got off the plane, we sat for three hours, while Japanese officials rifled through our documents, making sure everything was in order and we hadn't done something wrong.

After that, we visited about five immigration stations, where we were temperature-checked and our documents were again looked over.

Eventually, we made it to the swabbing centre, where you drool into a cup to produce a sample to be tested for COVID. Strangely, a poster on the wall tells people not to urinate in the cup - there goes that idea.

Newshub camera operator Bob Grieve films a live cross from quarantine.
Newshub camera operator Bob Grieve films a live cross from quarantine. Photo credit: Mitch McCann

In all, the process took about five hours after our 10-hour plane trip. It felt long and arduous, but also comforting, knowing how water-tight it all seemed.

Now, we're subject to a COVID test each day during our first three days here and random testing at the venues.

The point being, if COVID cases explode in Japan over the next few weeks, it seems extremely unlikely it will be because it slipped through the border. More likely, it'll be an athlete or support staff member who picks it up and spreads it through the village or team hotels.

That's a daunting prospect for Olympic staff here, who are risking it all on a successful Games.

Mitch McCann is a presenter and reporter for Newshub, currently in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games.