The United States has urged its citizens to avoid all travel to Japan, where concern is mounting over new variants of the coronavirus, But officials insist the move won’t complicate preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The State Department released its highest Level 4 travel warning for Japan on Monday, where a month-long state of emergency helped reduce cases in Tokyo but failed to make an impact significant on the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.
“Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan,” says US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] said in a new guidance released less than two months before the scheduled opening of the Olympics.
“Due to the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk of contracting and spreading variants of Covid-19 and should avoid all travel to Japan,” he added.
The State Department’s warning was more blunt. “Don’t travel to Japan because of the Covid-19,” he says.
The decision will have little impact on leisure travel: Japan has closed its borders to tourists, with only Japanese citizens and foreign residents allowed to enter the country.
In Tokyo, officials said the warning would not affect preparations for the Games, which Olympic and Japanese organizers say will go ahead as planned on July 23.
Joe Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that the United States supported plans for a “safe and secure” Games when they met in Washington last month, and Japan’s chief spokesperson Katsunobu Kato told reporters Tuesday that he didn’t think the notice would affect the Olympics.
The American Olympic and Paralympic Committee [USOPC], who oversees Team USA, said he was aware of the notice.
“We are confident that the mitigation practices currently 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, allow a safe participation of the American team. athletes this summer, ”the committees said in a statement.
The more than 11,000 athletes scheduled to compete in Tokyo will not have to complete the 14-day quarantine, but will need to test negative before leaving their home country and upon arrival in Japan, and undergo daily testing in a Olympic village “bubble” during their Games.
Japanese organizers have already decided to ban foreign spectators and are expected to decide whether or not to allow Japanese citizens to visit Olympic venues next month.
Despite the recent drop in cases in Tokyo and Osaka – where hospital beds for Covid patients have reached capacity – Japan recently qualified for Level 4 status, defined by the CDC as ” very high level ”of Covid-19 cases.
Level 4 advisories apply to countries where the coronavirus incidence rate – or cumulative new cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population – exceeds 100, according to the Kyodo news agency.
Japan met the criteria on Friday and its current incidence rate is 120 cases per 100,000, an official with the US Health Protection Agency said.
Very few people in Japan have been vaccinated against the virus, adding to concerns about possible new outbreaks caused by more contagious variants.
Just over 4% of the country’s 126 people have received at least one blow, but Suga has pledged to protect 36 million people over the age of 64 by the end of July.
Immunizations for the general population are not expected to be in full swing until the Olympics end on August 8.