TOKYO – Local authorities are searching for a Ugandan athlete who went missing in western Japan on Friday, in a case that has raised questions over monitoring of Olympic participants by Japanese organizers amid local coronavirus concerns.
City officials said the missing 20-year-old Julius Sekitoleko was training in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, as part of a nine-man Ugandan team.
City officials said teammates realized the athlete was absent around Friday afternoon, when his saliva test sample was not given and found his hotel room empty. There was no training on Friday morning and he was last seen in his room on Friday morning.
After failing to find him inside the hotel, the authorities informed the police for an extensive search.
Media reports said Sekitoleko, who did not meet Olympic standards in the latest international rankings, was to return home next week. Kyodo News Agency said he left a note saying he wanted to live and work in Japan.
Izumisano Mayor Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu said authorities had been informed of a possible sighting of Sekitoleko at a nearby train station.
The pandemic-delayed Olympics are set to begin on July 23, despite growing concerns about a spike in infections in Tokyo. The host city recorded 1,271 cases on Friday, after hitting a six-month high of 1,308 a day earlier.
The Ugandan team has previously joined Japan’s health and surveillance system.
Upon their arrival at Narita International Airport on 19 June, one member of the team tested positive and was quarantined there, while the remaining eight members traveled more than 300 miles in a chartered bus to their pre-Olympic camp, Izumisano. allowed to do. Western Prefecture of Osaka.
A few days later, a second member of the East Africa team tested positive for the virus, forcing seven city officials and drivers to self-isolate in close contact with the team. Health officials said both infected Ugandans had the delta version.
Both the team members have since waived their quarantine requirement and the team has been training since July 7.
The case prompted Japanese officials to increase border controls and change the isolation policy to require entire groups to be quarantined in airport areas if any member tests positive.
While Japanese authorities require the use of health and location apps and restricted activity in “bubbles” to completely isolate athletes from the Japanese public, violations have been reported.
Monitors previously pledged by Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa have not been seen operating in many hotels. Marukawa told reporters on Friday that she was asking organizers to strengthen measures and increase surveillance staff at hotels to ensure compliance with the rules.