US issues Japan travel warning weeks ahead of Olympics

The United States has issued a travel warning for Japan regarding the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, amid a thorough examination weeks before the Tokyo Olympics.

People hold a protest as they demand the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic in Tokyo, Japan on May 9, 2021.
Photo: AFP

U.S. Olympic officials said they still believe their athletes will be able to participate safely in the Games.

Japan already bans most travelers from entering the country.

It has long had a low number of Covid-19 cases but is now seeing a new wave of infections pushing the health care system in some cities to its limits.

Japan has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 deaths from Covid-19 from the virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that “travelers should avoid all travel” to the country, warning that under “the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk of contracting and spread ”variants of Covid-19.

Largely due to the global pandemic, the United States has 151 countries at level four, its highest alert level, including most of Europe where major sporting events are taking place as part of special Covid restrictions.

Japan does not allow any tourists or business travelers to enter the country for fear of new strains of the virus. The Japanese ban includes people coming from the United States who are “denied permission … except in exceptional circumstances.”

Large parts of the country are under a state of emergency to give regional authorities more power to implement measures against the pandemic.

Despite the growing crisis, the Tokyo Olympics are still scheduled to take place on July 23 after being postponed from last year.

Public opinion in the country sees a large majority of people wanting the Games to be canceled or postponed for a second time. The International Olympic Committee has ruled out these two options.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said the travel warning would not affect their participation.

“We are confident that the current mitigation practices put in place for athletes and staff by the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with pre-travel testing, upon arrival in Japan and during the Games , will allow the safe participation of the US team athletes this summer, ”he said in a statement.

Japanese officials responded to the U.S. travel advisory on Tuesday, saying they didn’t expect it to have an impact.

“We believe that there is no change in the position of the United States to support the determination of the Japanese government to achieve the organization of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato .

No foreign travelers are allowed to attend the Games, and the Japanese government is also not ruling out the possibility of holding the event without spectators, should the Covid-19 situation worsen.

Lagging behind other developed countries in its vaccination efforts, Japan on Monday launched a mass vaccination program in Tokyo and Osaka, the two cities hardest hit by the new wave of infections.

So far, only about 1.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Authorities hope that by the end of July, at least people aged 65 and over will have completed their vaccinations.

– BBC


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