US experts: Tokyo 2020 COVID-19 rules insufficient

Four US public health experts have urged improvements in anti-coronavirus protocols compiled for participants in this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The experts released an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday. They include University of Minnesota Regents Professor Michael Osterholm, who belonged to President Joe Biden's Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

The article referred to the Tokyo 2020 Playbooks, which outline anti-coronavirus rules for the Games' participants. They were jointly developed by the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo Games organizing committee.

The article says the "playbooks are not built on scientifically rigorous risk assessment."

The experts say "the IOC plans to provide every athlete with a smartphone that has mandatory contact-tracing and health-reporting apps." But they caution that "very few Olympic athletes will compete carrying a mobile phone."

The article points out that the playbooks should classify events, depending on whether they take place indoors or outdoors and whether they require close contact.

The experts say "some Paralympic athletes could be in a higher-risk category." They add they believe the playbooks do not adequately protect "thousands of people -- including trainers, volunteers, officials and transport and hotel employees."

The experts "recommend that the WHO immediately convene an emergency committee" to advise on a risk-management approach for the Tokyo Games. They say the committee should include infectious disease experts and athlete representatives.

The final versions of the playbooks are scheduled to be published next month.