Research article Special Issues

Not all fun and games: Potential incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

  • Received: 27 September 2021 Accepted: 26 October 2021 Published: 04 November 2021
  • The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games represent the most diverse international mass gathering event held since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Postponed to summer 2021, the rescheduled Games were set to be held amidst what would become the highest-ever levels of COVID-19 transmission in the host city of Tokyo. At the same time, the Delta variant of concern was gaining traction as the dominant viral strain and Japan had yet to exceed fifteen percent of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. To quantify the potential number of secondary cases that might arise during the Olympic Games, we performed a scenario analysis using a multitype branching process model. We considered the different contributions to transmission of Games accredited individuals, the general Tokyo population, and domestic spectators. In doing so, we demonstrate how transmission might evolve in these different groups over time, cautioning against any loosening of infection prevention protocols and supporting the decision to ban all spectators. If prevention measures were well observed, we estimated that the number of new cases among Games accredited individuals would approach zero by the end of the Games. However, if transmission was not controlled our model indicated hundreds of Games accredited individuals would become infected and daily incidence in Tokyo would reach upwards of 4,000 cases. Had domestic spectators been allowed (at 50% venue capacity), we estimated that over 250 spectators might have arrived infected to Tokyo venues, potentially generating more than 300 additional secondary infections while in Tokyo/at the Games. We also found the number of cases with infection directly attributable to hypothetical exposure during the Games was highly sensitive to the local epidemic dynamics. Therefore, reducing and maintaining transmission levels below epidemic levels using public health measures would be necessary to prevent cross-group transmission.

    Citation: Natalie M. Linton, Sung-mok Jung, Hiroshi Nishiura. Not all fun and games: Potential incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games[J]. Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, 2021, 18(6): 9685-9696. doi: 10.3934/mbe.2021474

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  • The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games represent the most diverse international mass gathering event held since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Postponed to summer 2021, the rescheduled Games were set to be held amidst what would become the highest-ever levels of COVID-19 transmission in the host city of Tokyo. At the same time, the Delta variant of concern was gaining traction as the dominant viral strain and Japan had yet to exceed fifteen percent of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. To quantify the potential number of secondary cases that might arise during the Olympic Games, we performed a scenario analysis using a multitype branching process model. We considered the different contributions to transmission of Games accredited individuals, the general Tokyo population, and domestic spectators. In doing so, we demonstrate how transmission might evolve in these different groups over time, cautioning against any loosening of infection prevention protocols and supporting the decision to ban all spectators. If prevention measures were well observed, we estimated that the number of new cases among Games accredited individuals would approach zero by the end of the Games. However, if transmission was not controlled our model indicated hundreds of Games accredited individuals would become infected and daily incidence in Tokyo would reach upwards of 4,000 cases. Had domestic spectators been allowed (at 50% venue capacity), we estimated that over 250 spectators might have arrived infected to Tokyo venues, potentially generating more than 300 additional secondary infections while in Tokyo/at the Games. We also found the number of cases with infection directly attributable to hypothetical exposure during the Games was highly sensitive to the local epidemic dynamics. Therefore, reducing and maintaining transmission levels below epidemic levels using public health measures would be necessary to prevent cross-group transmission.



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