Olympics Covid Circumstances Elevate Tough Questions About Testing
In addition, questions about transmission remain unanswered. Vaccinated people with asymptomatic or breakthrough infections may still be able to pass the virus on to others, but it is not yet clear how often this happens.
Until this science is more definitive or vaccination rates go up, it’s best to stay on the safety and regular testing side, many experts said. At the Olympics, for example, frequent testing could help protect the wider Japanese population, who have relatively low vaccination rates, as well as support staff, who may be older and at higher risk.
“It is these people that I really worry most about,” said Dr. Lisa Brosseau. on Research Advisor at the Center for Infection Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Not only can they become infected with the virus, which puts a strain on the Japanese health system, but they can also become sources of transmission: “Everyone is at risk and anyone could potentially be infected,” she said.
According to the Tokyo 2020 Press Office, all Olympics staff and volunteers were given the opportunity to get vaccinated, although officials did not provide any information about how many had received the syringes.
Instead of testing less frequently, officials could rethink how they respond to positive tests, said Dr. Binney. For example, if someone who is vaccinated and tested positive asymptomatically should still be isolated – but maybe close contacts could just be monitored instead of being quarantined.
“You are trying to balance the disruptive nature of what you do when someone tests positive against any benefits in slowing or stopping the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Binney.