Tokyo: The first thing we noticed was the size of the suitcases. Stacked three abreast, there are no longer any light travelers at international airports. Just people desperate to go home, those packing their bags for a stay in quarantine hotels, and now those heading to the Olympics.
The world recorded 535,000 more cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Inside the Olympic bubble, the task of making sure none of these cases are imported is a diabolical logistical challenge.
For the government of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the stakes are high. Japan grapples with 3,000 cases a day, as an additional 20,000 people arrive at Narita airport. It can’t afford Olympic infections to infiltrate the community or it risks turning the already unpopular games into a super-spreading event.
To protect both its health and its international reputation, the country’s contact tracing and travel precautions must withstand pressure from thousands of travelers from around the world.
here’s how Age and The Sydney Morning Herald arrived in Tokyo.
The trip began two weeks before boarding the plane. Daily temperature checks were recorded in Excel spreadsheets to show authorities that every traveler is monitoring their health before taking the plane.
The media pack members also mapped out each step they plan to take over their first 14 days in Japan. Each possible location was recorded in another spreadsheet and submitted to the Japanese authorities for approval. The business plan is basically a mix of Olympic venues and hotel. No contact with the Japanese public is permitted.
Japan’s over-reliance on cumbersome spreadsheets has created a flood of data for contact tracers and health bureaucrats. , known as OCHA for short.
Many of those covering the Olympics landed blindly at Narita Airport in Tokyo, not knowing if their business plans had been approved. An American journalist, sports freelance writer Ayako Oikawa, landed in Tokyo to find that her plan had been rejected. “It was our fault, I’m really sorry,” they told her the Japanese authorities, before being sent for 14 days of quarantine.