COVID-19 rules at the Tokyo Olympics: Spectators banned, vaccination not required


(LONDON) — As the coronavirus pandemic rages on in some parts of the world, the upcoming Summer Olympic Games are set to be unlike any others.

The 2020 Summer Olympics were supposed to kick off in Japan’s capital last year on July 24. But the games were postponed due to COVID-19 and are now scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8. The Summer Paralympics will follow, beginning Aug. 24 and ending Sept. 5.

Over the past few months, organizers have unveiled a series of “playbooks” with new rules and guidelines for how they plan to hold safe and successful games in Tokyo this summer amid the pandemic. The playbooks warn that failure to comply with these rules — such as refusing to get tested for COVID-19 or intentionally disrespecting mask wearing or physical distancing measures — may result in disciplinary consequences. The Japanese government has also announced some restrictions that apply to those partaking in the Tokyo Olympics.

Here’s a look at some of the COVID-19 measures in place for the games.

Testing and screening

All games participants — from athletes to fans — will be required to take two COVID-19 tests on two separate days within 96 hours of their flight to Japan. Both tests must use one of the methods approved by Japanese health authorities, and at least one of the two tests have to be taken within 72 hours of departure.

Individuals must obtain negative COVID-19 test results certificates to bring with them to Japan and be prepared to show them before boarding their flight. If a test is positive or individuals experience any symptoms of COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their trip, they have to immediately self-isolate in line with local rules.

Upon arrival in Japan, individuals must take a quantitative saliva antigen COVID-19 test at the airport. Those who test positive must isolate or receive medical treatment in a hospital in accordance with the instructions of the Japanese health authorities.

Athletes and officials who test positive at the airport will be taken by dedicated transport to the COVID-19 clinic at the Olympic and Paralympic Village for a confirmatory nasopharyngeal PCR test. If that test is also positive, they must isolate or receive medical treatment in a hospital, in accordance with the instructions of the Japanese health authorities.

Meanwhile, games participants who live in Japan must continue to follow the local COVID-19 countermeasures already in place. They have to take a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to arriving at the Olympic and Paralympic Village or participating in the games events, including official training.

During the games, athletes and all those in close proximity will have to undergo daily testing. All other participants will be tested daily for a period of three days after their arrival in Japan. Residents of Japan, as well as those from overseas who have been in the country for more than 14 days, may be asked to take a COVID-19 test before their role at the games begins.

Individuals will also have their temperatures checked every time they enter the Olympic and Paralympic Village or a games venue. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms or recently tested positive for the virus will be refused entry.

In addition to undertaking all such countermeasures, games participants who are traveling from a country identified by the Japanese government as presenting a higher level of COVID-19 risk must follow an additional set of rules before their arrival and during their stay in Japan. The list of such countries is divided into two groups, which are determined by the Japanese government and are subject to change.

Athletes, officials and other stakeholders, including journalists, who are traveling from countries listed in group No. 1 must be tested for COVID-19 every day for seven days prior to their flight to Japan and keep their physical interaction with others to an absolute minimum. Those coming from countries listed in group No. 2 must be tested every day for three days prior to their departure and keep their physical interaction with others to an absolute minimum.

Upon arrival in Japan, athletes and officials from countries in both groups will be tested every day, as is the case for all athletes and officials, and they will not be allowed to physically interact with anyone from another team, delegation or country for the next three days.

Other stakeholders coming from countries listed in group No. 1 will be tested every day for seven days after their arrival in Japan. Those from countries listed in group No. 2 will be tested for the first three days after arrival. Their testing regime thereafter will be defined based on the nature of their role. Stakeholders from countries in both groups will not be allowed to physically interact with anyone from another delegation or country for three days after arrival.


All games participants who are not living in Japan must quarantine at their accommodation upon arrival for the next three days.

During that period, individuals — except for those who traveled from countries listed in group No. 1 and 2 — will be permitted to perform essential games-related activities if they test negative for COVID-19 every day.


Although organizers encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the playbooks state that immunization will not be a requirement to participate in the games.

All of the rules and guidelines outlined in the playbooks will apply regardless of whether someone has received the vaccine.


All spectators — domestic and foreign — have been banned from Olympic venues in Tokyo during the games, in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, said it was a difficult decision but that they had “no other choice.”

The move followed an announcement from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who declared another state of emergency in Tokyo due to rising COVID-19 cases. The declaration takes effect July 12 and lasts through Aug. 22, meaning the Olympics will be held entirely under emergency measures.

A decision on spectators at venues in areas where emergency measures are not in force will be determined by the local government authorities. Fans have already been banned from lining the route of the Olympic marathon and race walk events, the location of which was moved hundreds of miles away from Tokyo to Hokkaido prefecture.

Meanwhile, a decision on spectators at Paralympic venues will be made when the Olympic Games end.

Where fans are allowed, the playbooks state that they will be barred from cheering, shouting, singing or whistling while watching competitions in order to prevent transmission through exposure to respiratory droplets. They also must maintain as much distance as possible from others to avoid physical contact.

Face masks, hand washing and social distancing

All games participants must wear a face mask at all times, except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping. They are also urged to wash and sanitize their hands regularly, disinfect surfaces, minimize social interaction with others and avoid enclosed spaces and crowds where possible.

Individuals must maintain a 2-meter distance from athletes and at least 1 meter from others at all times, including in operational spaces. They should avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact, including hugs, high-fives and handshakes, and should spend time only with the people identified as their regular contacts.

Individuals should also eat their meals alone or while keeping 2 meters away from others, unless instructed otherwise.

Public transport

All games participants — except for those living in Japan — are banned from using public transport for the first 14 days of their stay in the country, unless it is the only option to reach certain locations, such as a venue in a remote city. They must otherwise use dedicated games vehicles or the Transport by Chartered Taxi service when traveling to permitted destinations.

Residents of Japan have to adhere to counter-measures when using public transport.

All participants must only leave their accommodation to go to official games venues and limited additional locations that are outlined in their respective “activity plan.”

ABC News’ Rachel Katz, Drew Millhon and Anthony Trotter contributed to this report.

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