Olympics

Japan to consider easing travel curbs for Olympic athletes

KYODO

Japan will consider easing travel restrictions for athletes from abroad for next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in a bid to hold the Summer Games even if the global coronavirus pandemic is not completely under control by then, several sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The government considers it necessary to put in place a system that will allow athletes and related parties to enter Japan in case the virus situation prevents the government from lifting the entry ban on certain countries and regions, the sources said.

The Tokyo Games were originally set for this summer but were postponed in March due to the pandemic. The Olympics were expected to feature about 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries and regions, with the games' organizing committee indicating it has no plans to scale down the competitions.

According to the sources, the economic division at the National Security Secretariat, a coordination unit for Japan's diplomatic and security policies, will oversee the discussion.

The subject is likely to be brought up in September at a meeting to discuss coronavirus countermeasures, attended by officials of the central government, the games' organizing committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Since February, Japan has been strengthening travel restrictions for inbound visitors as part of its border control measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

Japan added another 18 countries, including Algeria, Cuba and Iraq, to its entry ban list last week, raising the total number of countries and regions subject to the measure to 129.

Last month, however, travel from Japan to Vietnam partially resumed for businesspeople, and the Japanese government is in talks with several countries including Thailand to mutually ease travel restrictions under certain conditions.

The sources said the athletes and officials will likely be required to prove they are not infected with the virus by taking the polymerase chain reaction test several times, including before and after traveling to Japan.

Limiting contact with people during their stay has also been brought up as a possible condition for entering the country, the sources said.

The games' organizers and the International Olympic Committee agreed in June to hold a "simplified" Olympics to ensure safety from the coronavirus and reduce the financial impact of the one-year delay.

The organizing committee is expected to draw up specific countermeasures against the virus as early as this fall after monitoring the pandemic situation.

The Olympics are slated to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 next year, followed by the Paralympic Games between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5.

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