United States health officials are warning against travel to Japan, while the Japanese government says those cautions will have no impact on Olympians scheduled to compete in the Tokyo Games this summer.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. health officials and the State Department issued warnings Monday because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Japan. The Opening Ceremony for the Olympics, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic, is scheduled for July 23 in Tokyo.
“Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan.”
The State Department’s warning raised the travel alert from “Reconsider travel” to “Do not travel” while releasing a statement that said in part, “Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19.”
Japan responded quickly Tuesday, with chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato saying during a news conference that the warning doesn’t ban travel or prohibit essential travel.
“We believe there is no change to the U.S. position supporting the Japanese government’s determination to achieve the games,” Kato said, noting that U.S. officials told Tokyo officials that the travel warning isn’t related to the U.S. team’s Olympic participation.
“We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer,” the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said in a statement Monday.
An estimated 2 to 4 percent of Japanese citizens have been vaccinated. The Olympics will already look different this year, as a March decision by a number of stakeholders banned international spectators in Japan.
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"Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas," the Olympic organizing committee said in a statement. "In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
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The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association recommended earlier this month that the 2021 Olympics be canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Japan recently opened mass vaccination clinics in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities with the goal of dispensing shots to 10,000 people per day for the next three months.
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