The Japanese government on Tuesday was quick to deny that the United States’ warning for Americans to avoid travelling to Japan would influence the athletes willing to compete in the Tokyo Games.
U.S. officials cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan caused by virus variants that may put even vaccinated people at risk. They didn’t ban Americans from visiting Japan, but the warnings could affect insurance rates and whether Olympic athletes and other participants decide to join the Games that begin on July 23.
The U.S. warning from the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said: “Because of the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan.”
The State Department’s warning was more blunt. “Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19,” it said.
Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency and are expected to remain so till the middle of June because of the rising COVID-19 cases that is also putting pressure on the country’s medical systems.
This raises concern about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain stressed and only a few of its population is vaccinated.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular news conference that the U.S. warning does not prohibit essential travel, and Japan believes that United States’ support for Tokyo’s effort to hold the Olympics is unchanged.
“We believe there is no change in the U.S. position supporting the Japanese government’s determination to host the Games,” said Kato, adding that Washington has told Tokyo that the travel warning is not related to the participation of the U.S. Olympic team.
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it still anticipates American athletes to safely compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fans from abroad were banned from the Tokyo Olympics months ago, but athletes, families and sporting officials from around the world and other stakeholders still amount to a mass influx of international travellers.
The Japanese public, in surveys, has expressed opposition in hosting the Games due to safety concerns.