The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic as Olympics approach

By Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0418 GMT (1218 HKT) July 22, 2021
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9:20 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Czech table tennis player will miss the Olympics because of Covid-19

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasova

Czech Republic's Pavel Širuček competes in the ITTF World Tour in Budapest, Hungary, on February 21, 2020.
Czech Republic's Pavel Širuček competes in the ITTF World Tour in Budapest, Hungary, on February 21, 2020. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

Czech table tennis player Pavel Širuček has tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokyo and will not be able to compete at the Games, the Czech Olympic Committee said in a statement on Wednesday.

Širuček, who is a first-time Olympian, is the latest positive result and brings the total number of cases within the Czech delegation to four.

Beach volleyball player Ondřej Perušič tested positive on Monday. He was followed by the coach of the women's beach volleyball team, Simon Nausch, on Tuesday

An unnamed staff member tested positive after arriving to Tokyo last week.

The Czech team’s head Martin Doktor said that he was worried these kind of “sport tragedies” would happen.

“Unfortunately, none of us can completely stop the virus from spreading, despite protecting ourselves as much as we can,” Doktor said in the statement.

The statement added that several other Czech athletes who have come into contact with those who tested positive have now been tested again.

At least two other athletes are awaiting the results of PCR tests.

8:40 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Breakthrough infections were always going to happen — they just caught people by surprise, expert says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Erin Bromage, a professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that it was always known that breakthrough Covid-19 cases would happen in vaccinated people, but that they’ve caught people by surprise. 

“We know that there are breakthrough cases and we knew that they were going to happen right from the start when they released the Phase 3 data that said that the vaccines were roughly 95% effective,” Bromage said on New Day Wednesday when asked about breakthrough infections in vaccinated people.

“Seeing them now is really not, you know, unsurprising in the greater scheme of the pandemic,” he said. “It’s just that people have been caught by surprise.”

The phase 3 vaccine data tested for efficacy of the vaccines among symptomatic cases – individuals who were infected and exhibited symptoms – not overall infection. 

People who are fully vaccinated and who have changed their behavior, doing things like going to restaurants, bars and clubs have been caught by surprise, he said, because while their personal risk for developing symptoms has decreased, the activities of gathering in closed, confined spaces are still higher risk activities. “If you’re indoors in a church or in a restaurant and it’s not a big open space, the air being shared by a lot of people around you, then you’re actually putting yourself at higher risk for infection,” said Bromage. “Now, high risk for infection for a vaccinated person probably doesn’t matter as much because we know it doesn’t lead to severe disease,” he added. 

9:14 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

British sport shooter withdraws from Tokyo Games after testing positive for Covid-19

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok

Amber Hill of Great Britain waits to shoot during the ISSF World Cup Shotgun on May 10 in Desenzano del Garda, Italy.
Amber Hill of Great Britain waits to shoot during the ISSF World Cup Shotgun on May 10 in Desenzano del Garda, Italy. (Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

Britain's world No. 1 shooter Amber Hill has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19 prior to departing for Japan, Team GB announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Hill, who tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK, was due to compete in the Women’s Olympic Skeet competition.

The 23-year-old, who was the most experienced athlete on the British shooting team, was a finalist at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. 

“After five years of training and preparation, I’m absolutely devastated to say that last night I received a positive COVID-19 test, meaning I’ve had to withdraw from Team GB’s shooting team,” said Hill.

"I will be back from this, but right now I need some time to reflect and take in what has happened,” she added.

Shooting team leader Steven Seligmann said it was “an incredibly sad situation” adding “our focus is to now make sure Amber is kept safe and well, both physically and mentally, and we have the support in place to help her through this difficult period.”

Team GB confirmed no replacement athlete will be selected in Hill’s place.

8:56 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

UK prime minister accused of being a "super spreader" of confusion over self-isolation rules

From CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a visit to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, England, on July 15.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a visit to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, England, on July 15. (David Rose/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of being a “super spreader” of confusion over self-isolation rules, by the leader of opposition Labour party Keir Starmer, after contradictory statements were issued by the government earlier this week on the matter. 

“How on earth are businesses meant to plan, when the Prime Minister keeps chopping and changing like this?,” Starmer asked Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Johnson joined virtually – with the speaker of the House of Commons at one point struggling to hear him – as he is self-isolating at his country residence in Chequers, England, after being a close contact of the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. 

“Even after 15 months of these exchanges I can’t believe that the Prime Minister doesn't see the irony of him spending 'Freedom Day' locked in isolation, and announcing plans for a vaccines ID card,” Starmer said. He highlighted the recent confusion and changes of policy over isolation exemptions and Covid vaccine passports, two days after all lockdown restrictions were lifted in England despite daily cases being around 50,000. 

“When it comes to creating confusion. The Prime Minister is a super spreader,” Starmer added. 

Johnson accused Starmer of trying to "score cheap political points" and defended the isolation system. 

“Isolation is a very important part of our armoury against Covid. We're going forward, as everybody knows, to a new system on August 16 based on testing but in the meantime when you're advised to isolate to protect others and to protect your family against the spread of the disease then you should do so," Johnson said.

Johnson said Monday that a number of critical workers would be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate when notified by the NHS Covid-19 ‘Track and Trace’ app. 

Downing Street reiterated on Tuesday that people should isolate if they are notified or ‘pinged’ by a Covid app used by the National Health Service to trace possible contacts of those who test positive for Covid-19. The confirmation came after UK business minister Paul Scully suggested that it was down to individuals and employers to follow the instructions, or to ignore them.

8:44 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

1st athlete in Tokyo announces end of Olympic journey after testing positive for Covid-19 

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Candy Jacobs of Netherlands competes during the WS/SLS 2019 World Championship at Parque Anhembi on September 22, 2019, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Candy Jacobs of Netherlands competes during the WS/SLS 2019 World Championship at Parque Anhembi on September 22, 2019, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Dutch Olympic skateboarder Candy Jacobs has tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokyo, ending her Olympic journey, according to a post from her official Instagram account.

Jacobs is the first athlete to announce he or she cannot participate because of the virus after arriving in Tokyo.

There have been other athletes who have tested positive before arriving in Japan and have announced they cannot participate in the Games.

"I am heartbroken," Jacobs said in her post. "Unfortunately I was tested positive for Covid-19 this morning, which means my Olympic journey ends here. I have done everything in my power to prevent this scenario, took all the precautions."

"Luckily we've been following the protocols so my fellow skateboarders still get to shine bright," Jacobs added.

"I will need some time to let my broken heart heal and recover from this. Let's go Paris 2024," Jacobs said.

It is unclear whether Jacobs was staying in the Olympic Village, though her Instagram stories show videos of the Village. 

The Tokyo 2020 Games are set to officially begin on Friday.

8:03 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Tokyo 2020 boss not ruling out last-minute cancellation of Olympic Games

From CNN's Chandler Thornton and Ben Church

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto isn’t ruling out a last minute cancellation of the Olympic Games amid rising Covid-19 cases.

Tokyo reported 1,387 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the city’s second-highest daily increase of new cases since Jan. 21, according to Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s website.

And as athletes have started to arrive ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, the number of cases in Japan linked to the Games is now over 70, according to organizers.

“We cannot predict what the epidemic will look like in the future. So as for what to do should there be any surge of positive cases, we’ll discuss accordingly if that happens,” Muto said during a press conference held in Tokyo on Tuesday. 

“During the last five-party talk, it was clearly stated we’ll continue to monitor the coronavirus situation, and a five-party talk will be held if necessary.”

The five parties are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the Japan government, the Tokyo Metropolitan government and the International Paralympic Committee.

“At this stage, the coronavirus situation might get worse or better, so we will think about what to do when the situation actually arises,” added Muto.

The capital is currently under a coronavirus state of emergency, which is set to expire on Aug. 22, and organizers announced this month that the Tokyo venues will not have spectators as a result. 

Just three days before the sporting spectacle is set to begiin, Tokyo public health expert Dr. Kenji Shibuya said the Olympic bubble system “is kind of broken.”

Read more here.