TOKYO (Japan): Amid worries about the COVID affecting the Tokyo Olympics, top Japanese officials said they did not expect a US advisory against travel to Japan and that US support for the Games was unchanged.
The U.S. State Department’s “Do Not Travel” advisory and guidance for Japan on Monday did not mention the Olympics specifically but warned against visiting the country now.
“At present, we can see no particular impact,” Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told a news conference. She noted that the advisory did not ban essential travel and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee had said planned mitigation practices would allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes.
Top Japanese and Olympic officials have pledged the Games will go ahead as planned on July 23 after being postponed in 2020, even as surveys show a majority of Japanese want the Games cancelled or postponed due to worries over coronavirus.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan was in close contact with the US government.
“There is absolutely no change in the United States’ support for Japan’s decision to hold the Olympics, we believe,” Kato said.
In its new guidance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said travellers should avoid all travel to Japan.
“Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” it said.
Australia has also advised against travel to Japan due to health risks from COVID-19 and disruptions to global travel.
Japan has avoided the large-scale infections suffered by many other nations, but a fourth wave has triggered states of emergency in Tokyo, the western metropolis of Osaka and other localities across the nation.
The government was leaning towards extending the emergency status – set to end on May 31 in most regions, including Tokyo, several sources with knowledge of the decision told Reuters.
Japan’s slow vaccination roll-out has increased concerns.
The country has delivered vaccinations to just under 5% of its population, the slowest among the world’s larger, rich countries, and has recorded 715,940 infections and 12,308 deaths from the virus.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, which oversees Team USA, said in a statement to Reuters that it has been made aware of the updated State Department advisory on Japan.
“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 statement said.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai also said he saw no direct impact on the Olympics from the U.S. travel advisory but added that there were important practical issues that remained to be resolved.
International spectators will not be allowed to enter Japan to attend the Games but a decision has yet to be made on domestic spectators.