May 25, 2021 -- The State Department issued a travel advisory for Japan on Monday, urging Americans not to visit the country due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.
Despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, Japan still plans to hold the Tokyo Olympics -- postponed from 2020 -- between July 23 and Aug. 8. The Summer Games could face more hurdles if cases continue to increase, CNN reported.
On Tuesday, Japanese officials said they believe the U.S. still supports the country in holding the Olympics despite the travel advisory.
“We have also received an explanation from the United States that the decision to raise the travel advisory level to Level 4 is not related to the dispatch of the athletes from the United States,” Katsunobu Kato, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, said during a news conference.
COVID-19 cases have steadily increased since Japan lifted its state of emergency in March, CNN reported. A fourth wave of infections has triggered states of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, and other areas across the country. The Health Ministry approved two vaccines -- from AstraZeneca and Moderna -- on May 21, and the government plans to open large-scale vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka to give shots. About 2% of Japanese citizens have received at least one shot.
In the meantime, officials have faced growing pressure to postpone the Olympics again, and demonstrators have begun protesting in the streets, CNN reported. The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which includes about 6,000 doctors, wrote a letter that called for a cancellation. The “Stop Tokyo Olympics” campaign also filed a petition, with 350,000 signatures, to the Olympic and Paralympic committee chiefs, as well as Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, according to Reuters.
At the same time, officials with the International Olympic Committee said last week that they would manage risks. Thomas Bach, president of the committee, said 75% of people who plan to enter the Olympic Village have already been vaccinated, and the organizers anticipate that the final number will surpass 80%, according to CNN.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which oversees Team USA, said in a statement to Reuters that it was aware of the State Department’s updated travel advisory.
“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.