Washington – The United States continues to support Tokyo’s plan to hold the Summer Olympics, with an expectation of strict protocols to protect visiting athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said Tuesday, a day after the State Department issued an advisory against traveling to Japan.
“Our position has not changed on the Olympics,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a news conference, noting the Japanese government’s assurances that “public health remains the central priority” in plans for hosting the games.
The United States sent ripples across Japan by raising its travel advisory to the Asian country to the highest level of 4 on Monday due to a rise in coronavirus cases, just two months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The U.S. advisory and guidance for Japan did not mention plans for the Olympics, which are scheduled to start on July 23, but warned against visiting the country now. Japanese officials said they did not anticipate any effect on the games from the travel advisory.
Psaki said U.S. athletes heading to the country are among “one of the very limited categories of U.S. travelers that are actually planning on going to Japan for the Olympics.”
“There are very specific entry and movement rules and procedures which the organizers have laid out to ensure the protection of everyone involved,” she added.
Japan, which has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 deaths from the virus, has delivered vaccinations to just under 5% of its population. That is the slowest rate among the world’s larger rich countries.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose assessment was reflected in the “do not travel” advisory, has described the situation in Japan as potentially putting even fully vaccinated travelers at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
The CDC issues a level four warning when a country reports more than 100 new cases for every 100,000 people over the previous 28 days. According to the CDC, Japan’s incidence rate reached 120 cases for every 100,000 people on Friday.
Still, questions have continued to be raised within and beyond Japan as to whether the Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by one year due to the pandemic, should go ahead.
Tokyo, Osaka and several other prefectures have been under a state of emergency since late April due to a resurgence in infections, while the public has been frustrated with the government’s handling of the coronavirus for months, including its slow vaccination rollout compared to other developed countries.
Media polls have also shown that a large majority of people in Japan are not supportive of staging the global sporting event this summer in the capital.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s efforts to hold a “safe and secure” Olympic and Paralympic Games when the two met in mid-April, according to a joint statement released after their talks.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.