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The Czech Olympic Committee is investigating a chartered team flight to Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, as it believes behavior on that flight may have caused a COVID-19 outbreak.
Five people on the flight from the Czech Republic delegation, three of whom are athletes, had tested positive and were in isolation as of Thursday, according to USA Today. 42 people were reportedly on the flight from Prague to Tokyo in total, including 14 athletes.
The investigation will determine “whether all precautions against the spread of COVID-19 before, during and after the charter flight have been compiled with,” the committee said in a release, via USA Today. There have also been reports that not all passengers wore masks on the flight, and that an unvaccinated doctor may have contributed to the spread.
"The situation is serious," Czech team leader Martin Doktor said in a statement, via USA Today. "We have done our best to stop spreading the virus. Unfortunately, we didn’t avoid sport tragedies. I’m deeply sorry."
Both beach volleyball player Marketa Nausch and table tennis player Pavel Sirucek have withdrawn from the Games completely after testing positive, and beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic will at least miss his opening match.
Some members of the Czech delegation have been moved outside of the Olympic village as a precaution, too, per the report.
A finished investigation is expected within 14 days. The committee said it will not comment further until that is done.
COVID issues continue in Tokyo
Several American athletes have already been impacted, and in some cases forced to withdraw, due to the pandemic — which appears to only be getting worse in Japan ahead of the Opening Ceremony.
Beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb tested positive and is now headed home to Hawaii, and two alternates on the women’s gymnastics team are isolating after one of them tested positive. Tennis star Coco Gauff tested positive and pulled out of the Olympics completely, and the men’s basketball team has had several players in the health and safety protocols.
Japan is averaging more than 3,500 new coronavirus cases each day as of Thursday, according to The New York Times — which is about a 112% increase over the past two weeks. Only about 23% of the country is fully vaccinated. The Czech Republic is averaging 230 new cases each day, a 63% increase over the past two weeks, and about 41% of the country is fully vaccinated.
Despite all of the issues and concerns surrounding the pandemic, the Opening Ceremony is set to kick off on Friday in Tokyo.
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