Australia’s Olympians want special exemptions while quarantining after the Tokyo Games but deny they’re queue-jumping for coronavirus vaccine jabs.
About 1200 athletes, support staffers and officials headed for the troubled Tokyo Olympics will receive coronavirus vaccinations from next week.
But the government and Australian Olympic Committee reject claims of queue-jumping ahead of the vulnerable and frontline workers.
About 2500 vaccine doses for Australia’s Olympic team will be given outside the public health system.
“We’re not actually queue-jumping,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in Sydney on Wednesday.
“We’re not putting any load on the public rollout, which seems to be the one that people talk about most.
“We will manage that ourselves. We’re wanting to make sure we don’t tax the public system, whether it be quarantine or vaccination.”
Post-Games, Olympians want to quarantine in Australian hotels, possibly two people to a room, outside of the established COVID-19 system while allowed to keep training.
Carroll said that would prevent straining the existing hotel quarantine system with the arrival of 700 athletes and as many support staffers.
“They need to be outside the [international arrivals] cap because we are bringing so many people back into the country roughly at the same time,” Carroll said.
“It is not a special favour. It is still 14-day quarantine.”
The re-scheduled Games, to open on July 23, loom as Japan faces a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections and Tokyo remains in a state of emergency.
Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said whether the Olympics should proceed was a legitimate question.
“I am sure the IOC and the Japanese government are giving that matter serious consideration,” he told the ABC.
“But it is a significant question because quite clearly not all athletes from all nations are going to have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
The senator also rejected the queue-jumping criticism, saying inevitable coronavirus cases at the Olympics was a factor in vaccinating the Australians.
Any Australian testing positive at the Games, which were postponed a year because of the global pandemic, will quarantine at a designated hotel in Tokyo.
The Australian team’s travels on charter flights would also operate outside of the nation’s cap on international arrivals, currently about 5400 a week.
The team must clear a coronavirus test before departing for Tokyo and be tested on arrival and daily during the Games.
Athletes are only allowed in Tokyo up to five days before their event, and then must leave within 48 hours.
Carroll said the Australian team was “going into obviously a difficult circumstance”.
“We are working with getting the athletes out within 24 hours,” he said.
“We are going to do everything possible whether it be the vaccination, the social distancing, the mask-wearing.
“We are putting a lot of protocols in place on top of what Tokyo is doing … which will go towards protection.”