OHT’s Ramanan Laxminarayan co-authored a policy brief that highlighted optimal COVID-19 testing strategies to minimize transmission between athletes, staff, and media personnel at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. Daily antigen and/or reverse transcriptase PCR testing of athletes would be crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19, particularly given their close contact in the Olympic Village. Testing daily was projected to reduce total cases of COVID-19 during the Olympic Games by 69 percent, compared to 25 percent when testing once every four days. Furthermore, if athletes were tested once before departure from their home country and once upon arrival at the Olympic Village, there would be an estimated 16 percent additional reduction in the total number of cases. Supplementing daily testing with contact tracing and repeated testing of close contacts of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 was shown to further decrease total cases by four percent.

During the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, measures such as arranging private transport for athletes, restricting athletes’ physical movement within the Olympic Village, and mandating face masks were implemented in addition to rigorous testing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. There was an overall PCR positivity rate of 0.069 percent across the Tokyo Olympics and 0.024 percent at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The low secondary attack rates (2 percent at Tokyo and 4.4 percent at Beijing) indicate the success of the implemented public health measures in interrupting the forward chain of transmission.

Effective testing strategies, infection prevention measures, and a risk-based approach to outbreak control showed that mass gatherings could continue to be held safely in the context of a global pandemic.

Read the full article, published in The Lancet, here.