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Olympics team’s vaccine options open

MQONDISI DUBE
Uncertain run: Botlogetswe is among athletes who have qualifed for the Olympics PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
With the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) still a raging menace just days before the Tokyo Olympic Games, Botswana team’s chef de mission, Tshepo Sitale has said vaccinating athletes remains an option.

There are growing concerns over the safety of the games as Japan continues to record rising COVID-19 cases, and has vaccinated only one percent of its population.

Last week Tuesday, marked 100 days to the games but the mood was of concern due to COVID-19.

Reports from Japan are that the games’ volunteers will only be armed with sanitisers and mask, amid concerns they will be exposed to infection as thousands of athletes and officials descend on the capital, Tokyo.

The participating teams only need to present a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate. Japan turned down China’s offer to vaccinate the athletes, with Tokyo authorities arguing the vaccines from its vastly populated Asian neighbour, had not been approved for use.

Botswana has been following developments in Japan closely, Sitale said. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has committed to assist local Olympic bodies like the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) gain access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“Vaccination is part of the measures being explored and the Ministry of Health [and Wellness] and our Medical Committee will advise accordingly,” Sitate said this week.

He added the IOC and Japan, through the Local Organising Committee, have a working committee on the delivery of

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the Olympic Games that involves the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The games are (a) high level event that is not taken lightly, hence there are protocols and measures that have been done to deliver safe games,” he said. Japan has said it is open to cancelling the games if the coronavirus situation worsens. According to a poll conducted in Japan recently, 72% locals are against the hosting of the games due to coronavirus concerns.

The media in Japan quoted a senior ruling party official saying the country is open to cancelling or postponing the games.

“I want the games to succeed but to do so there are a lot of themes that need to be resolved,” Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary-general, Toshihiro Nikai said during a television interview that has not yet been aired, Kyodo News reported. “If it seems impossible, it needs to be stopped.”

It will be a blow if the games are cancelled after they were postponed from last year.

Six Botswana athletes have qualified for the competition and they include Nijel Amos, Christine Botlogetswe, Amantle Montsho and Galefele Moroko from athletics, while Keamogetse Kenosi and Mohammed Rajab have made it from boxing.



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