The Japanese government hastened to deny a U.S. warning to Americans to avoid traveling to Japan would affect Olympians who want to compete in the postponed games in Tokyo.
U.S. officials have cited an increase in cases of coronavirus in Japan caused by viral variants that may even pose a risk to vaccinated people. They have not banned Americans from visiting Japan, but warnings could affect insurance rates and whether Olympic athletes and other participants decide to join the games, which begin on July 23.
Most metro areas in Japan are in a state of emergency and are expected to remain so until mid-June due to the growing serious cases of COVID-19, which are putting pressure on the country’s health care systems. This raises concerns about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain under stress and few of its population is vaccinated.
Japan’s chief of staff, Katsunobu Kato, told a regular news conference on Tuesday that the US warning did not prohibit major travel and that Japan believed US support for Tokyo’s efforts to host the Olympics remained unchanged.
“We believe there is no change in the US position supporting the Japanese government’s determination to achieve the Games,” Kato said, adding that Washington had told Tokyo that the travel warning was not related to the US Olympic team’s involvement.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it still expects American athletes to be able to compete safely at the Tokyo Games.
Fans coming from abroad were banned from the Tokyo Olympics months ago, but athletes, families, sports officials from around the world and other stakeholders still represent a massive influx of international travelers. The Japanese public in opinion polls has expressed opposition to holding the games for safety reasons, while most people will not be vaccinated.
A U.S. warning from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Because of the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated passengers may be at risk of receiving and distributing variants of COVID-19 and should avoid all travel to Japan. “
The State Department’s warning was harsher. “Don’t travel to Japan because of COVID-19,” it said.