Singapore to go 'over and above' COVID-19 safety measures by Tokyo Olympics organisers: Chef de mission
SINGAPORE: The measures and precautions taken by Team Singapore against COVID-19 will exceed even those spelt out by organisers of the upcoming Olympic Games, to the extent that Singapore athletes will operate in a "bubble within a bubble", said contingent leaders on Tuesday (Jun 6).
Speaking to members of the media at a virtual press conference, chef de mission Dr Ben Tan noted that preparations for the Olympics have been comprehensive. The Games are scheduled to begin in less than three weeks.
"The preparations have been very thorough. We've had lots of meetings, we've met with NSAs (National Sports Associations) ... Of course, featuring strongly in our preparations is the safeguarding measures for COVID-19, to protect the health and the safety of athletes and the whole contingent is a priority for us," he explained.
"We have put in place precautions over and above what is in the Tokyo 2020 playbook."
CONTINGENT FULLY VACCINATED
For one, every member of the Singapore contingent that is headed to the Games is fully vaccinated, said Team Singapore's chief medical officer Dr Teoh Chin Sim. This includes both athletes and officials based in Singapore and abroad.
While the majority of athletes slated to compete at the Games have been vaccinated, according to International Olympic Council (IOC), vaccinations are not compulsory.
"It's really well established that vaccinations reduce the severity of illness should one get infected. So that's really the first thing that we do," added Dr Teoh.
Games organisers have released a playbook detailing a slew of safety measures. They include instructions to wear a face mask at all times – except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping.
Organisers have also stated that the minimum physical distancing rule is at least 2m from athlete to athlete and 1m from athlete to others.
Singapore will ask athletes to observe the two-metre rule within its entire contingent across teams where possible, said Dr Teoh.
READ: Singapore table tennis player was in Olympics interview with Japanese cameraman who tested positive for COVID-19
Last week it was revealed that a Singapore table tennis player and team manager were involved in a pre-Olympics interview attended by a Japanese cameraman who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The national team left for Japan on Jun 27 and has been based in the city of Shimada in Shizuoka prefecture. The interview involving the Japanese cameraman took place on Jun 29.
Mr Toh Boon Yi, chief of the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), said all protocols were followed. He noted that all members of the team were observed and have tested negative for the virus so far.
"I've seen the video and the photograph of that particular incident. Actually distances were well-kept and masks were worn ... We are happy that there was no violation of safe management measures," he explained.
"That is a useful reminder to our whole team as well to trust our processes again."
SINGAPORE ATHLETES TO BE 'VERY DISCIPLINED'
Athletes will also be equipped with a travel essentials kit prepared by the SSI. Their attire and equipment will also be coated by an anti-microbial spray for surface coating and protection.
"The emphasis has been on eye protection, mask and hand hygiene," Dr Teoh noted.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question on Monday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong had noted that the travel kit will contain an "ample supply" of surgical-grade respirators and masks, as well as a protective face shield and disinfectants.
The anti-microbial surface spray to pre-treat their attire and equipment can last for three to six months, he added.
"On the ground in Tokyo, Team Singapore will be supported by a joint Games Secretariat, comprising staff from SportSG, SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) and SNPC (Singapore National Paralympic Council), who will oversee the daily movement and well-being of all members of the contingent," Mr Tong had said in response to a question from Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim (WP-Aljunied).
"The contingent is supported by a medical team led by the Chief Medical Officer and comprising sports physiotherapists from the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), Public Healthcare Institutions (PHIs) and the private sector, as well as sport scientists and psychologists from SSI."
Mr Tong had also noted that an operation centre has been set up in Singapore to closely monitor developments at the Games.
"Finally, over the last few weeks, MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth), SportSG and SNOC have also worked with colleagues in Government to scenario plan and prepare contingency plans, rehearsed with a table-top simulation exercise, to prepare for many eventualities as possible, which includes possible evacuation," he added.
READ: About 220 Team Singapore athletes, coaches and officials have completed COVID-19 vaccinations: SportSG
"BUBBLE WITHIN A BUBBLE"
The Singapore-based athletes have been training within a “bubble” to minimise disruptions to their performance plans, noted the Singapore Nation Olympic Council (SNOC) in an accompanying press release.
"Athletes will arrive five days before their competition commences, and depart within 48 hours after their competition ends. While in Tokyo, they will function in a 'bubble within a bubble' to minimise their exposure to risks, and will undergo COVID-19 tests daily," added SNOC.
"A safety and hygiene protocol is in place to ensure that they are in tip-top shape and health at all times."
Cases in Tokyo have been on the rise in recent weeks, but Team Singapore said it is confident of the precautions it is taking.
"We have all the measures in place in the playbook. And we have additional measures," said Dr Tan.
"And on top of that, it is not just the rules, not just the regulations, it is also about the compliance, the discipline in following them and we can count on our athletes to be very disciplined in following the rules."
There will also be a number of testing requirements including two COVID-19 tests on two separate days within 96 hours of the departure of their flight to Japan, a test on arrival, as well as daily testing.
While foreign spectators have been banned, the organisers have capped the number of domestic spectators at 10,000 per venue for the Games, or 50 per cent of capacity.
However, the banning of spectators remains a "possibility", said Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week.
READ: 'We urge caution,' WHO says on Tokyo Olympics
A total of 23 athletes across 12 sports will represent Singapore at the Games, with badminton player Loh Kean Yew and table tennis player Yu Mengyu the flag bearers.
This is the most number of sports Singapore will contest at the Olympic Games, surpassing its previous record of nine in 2012.
The opening ceremony of the Games is scheduled to take place on Jul 23.
As Singapore’s Olympics Network, Mediacorp will be bringing you the widest coverage of Tokyo 2020. Go to mediacorp.sg/tokyo2020 for more details now.