The U.S. State Department on Monday advised its citizens not to visit Japan due to a surge in coronavirus cases, raising its travel alert to the highest level of 4 just two months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The State Department issued its highest possible caution, “Level 4: Do Not Travel”, based on recommendations from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The same level of warning was issued for Sri Lanka.
“Travellers should avoid all travel to Japan,” the CDC’s warning posted on Monday reads. “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 department did not mention in its advisory the Summer Olympics, scheduled to be staged from July 23 to Aug. 8, but the heightened alert level could affect U.S. decision-making on whether to send its athletes to the games. Japan has already decided not to allow overseas spectators and volunteers to enter the country for the games.
In Tokyo, a senior administration official downplayed the advisory’s impact, saying that Japan has implemented similar measures for other countries. Asked about whether it would impact the Olympics, the official said “special slots” for Olympic athletes and others involved in the games have “nothing to do” with the advisory.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee said Monday that American athletes won’t be at undue risk if they compete this summer in Tokyo.
“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 committee said in a statement.
The Japanese government has been emphasizing that the games can still be held safely, saying it will ensure proper anti-virus measures are in place for athletes and staff to participate.
John Coates, an International Olympic Committee vice president, said Friday the Tokyo Olympics can be held as planned even if the capital is under a state of emergency.
In March last year, the State Department issued an advisory for Americans to avoid all international travel amid the worldwide outbreak of the virus.
The United States remains the country to have suffered the most during the pandemic, with the number of infections totaling more than 33 million and deaths exceeding 590,000. But its situation has been improving amid a massive vaccine rollout.