As Covid outbreak worsens, Fijian athletes board plane for Olympics

As Fiji battles one of the world’s fastest growing coronavirus outbreaks, the Pacific Islands Olympic team departed for Tokyo on Thursday aboard a cargo plane.

Their traveling companions? A cargo of frozen fish.

The coronavirus outbreak had thwarted plans to bring athletes to Japan on scheduled planes after nearly all passenger flights from the country were suspended until the end of July. Only a small number of repatriation and cargo flights were allowed to leave.

The country has been hit by the Delta variant of the virus, with an average of 57 new daily cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Just over 6% of the population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Organizing the trip was therefore a “logistical challenge,” Lorraine Mar, executive director of the Fijian Sports Association and the National Olympic Committee, told The Associated Press. The solution: a freight plane carrying mostly frozen seafood, with just enough space for passengers and other officials.

It’s a stark contrast to the flashier modes of transportation of other Olympians: American basketball players Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton can fly to Tokyo by private plane due to scheduling conflicts, while members of the The British Olympic team departed from Heathrow Airport in London. Tuesday wearing tracksuits matching their team colors.

At around midnight local time, around 50 Fijian athletes and officials, including the country’s men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams, boarded the flight from Nadi, the main international airport, to Tokyo ahead of the Games. summer.

Before boarding, the team members spent 96 hours in isolation and underwent tests 72 hours before departure, following guidelines set by authorities in Tokyo. A Fiji Olympic team official who tested positive for Covid-19 has been removed from the event.

Ahead of the team’s departure, the country’s National Olympic Committee released a video showing masked supporters waving the sky-blue Fiji flag as they wave goodbye.

The country will compete in six sports, including archery, judo and table tennis. In 2016, 60 years after the country’s first appearance in the Olympics, Fiji won their first medal when the men’s rugby team triumphed in the inaugural Olympic Rugby Sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

In other developments around the world:

  • South Korea will increase coronavirus restrictions to the highest level in Seoul, its capital and some neighboring areas from Monday, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday. The announcement comes after South Korea reported its biggest daily increase in new cases on Thursday, and a senior health official warned the numbers could nearly double by the end of July. Under the new borders, people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, schools will be closed, public meetings will be limited to two people after 6 p.m. and gatherings prohibited. Nightclubs and bars will be closed, while restaurants and cafes will have a limited number of seats and limited to take-out services after 10 p.m.

  • Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 about two weeks after attending a European Union summit, left the hospital Thursday morning “in view of the improvement in his health,” his spokesperson said. word. Mr Bettel, 48, was admitted on Sunday due to low blood oxygen levels, a serious concern for Covid-19 patients. He received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May and became ill before July 1, when he was due to receive the second. Mr Bettel will return to duty on Friday, working in isolation from home, his spokesperson said. No other European leader who attended the summit on June 24 and 25 showed symptoms of Covid-19, the EU said on Monday.

  • The government of France informed its citizens Thursday not to take a vacation Spain or Portugal due to the recent increase in coronavirus cases there. Spain is recording on average more new cases per day this week than at any time since February. Portugal recently reintroduced nighttime curfews in several cities, including Lisbon, the capital, where residents are also banned from traveling to other parts of the country on weekends. Portugal and Spain were hoping to revive tourism by reopening their borders to European travelers in time for the peak summer season, only to be stranded by countries like Britain and now France issuing new travel warnings. Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santo Silva on Thursday urged other European Union countries to work together on travel restrictions instead of applying them unilaterally.

  • the United States, as part of its commitment to distribute vaccines to countries in need, will ship 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Uruguay and 1.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Afghanistan, the first of three million doses destined for the country, said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Thursday.

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