A majority of the country is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19 outbreaks. With two months to go, many question Japan’s ability to handle a potential surge during the quadrennial Olympics.
Travel Advisory Level Four
Last Monday, the US State Department raised its travel advisory to Japan at level four. This puts the Olympics host among a slew of nations that Americans should avoid going to due to coronavirus concerns.
However, Japan registered much lower infection rates compared to the US. This development dealt the latest blow in the country’s attempts to convince both its citizens and the international community that it can host the Summary Olympics.
Japan already moved the date previously – the original target date was July 2020. Almost a year later, concerns over coronavirus still linger.
Decision Not Connected to The Olympics
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told Tokyo media that the US said its travel advisory has no connection with the Olympics.
The US-based its advisory on infection rates over the preceding 28 days. Meanwhile, Japan is planning to extend a state of emergency that covers Tokyo and other urban areas. This emergency may linger until a month before the Olympics begins on July 23.
Back home, the Japanese government faces opposition from citizens over its insistence to continue with hosting the Olympics.
Many Japanese think that sports events will turn into superspreader events. In fact, a Yomiuri poll reports that nearly 60% of respondents said Japan should call off the Olympics.
Economic Impact of Cancellation
However, canceling the Tokyo Olympics might have a lasting economic impact. “Cancellation of the Olympics would likely have a lasting effect.
It could dent business and consumer sentiment, both of which are critical for economic recovery,” opined Yuki Masujima of Bloomberg Economics.
It didn’t help that the timing of the US announcement comes despite an improving COVID-19 situation in Japan. By May 23, the country recorded about 39 new cases per million people.
In contrast, the US recorded 76 cases per million Americans, according to Our World in Data.
Besides, the travel advisory against Japan is largely symbolic. Japan already banned most inbound travel, including passengers from the US.
Around 600 people arrived in Japan from the US, a 99.6% reduction from the same period two years ago.
Japan Should Decide Soon Whether Or Not It Will Hold the Tokyo Olympics
Toshihiro Nikai, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is Japan’s ruling party, said the country needs to decide soon.
Given the current virus situation, can Japan run the Tokyo Olympics safely? The latest Covid-19 wave in Japan featured infectious strains from abroad.
This added concerns about flying in thousands of overseas participants, including athletes and officials. Some competitors already expressed safety concerns. In fact, the US track and field team canceled their pre-Olympics training in the country.
A US level 4 advisory is the highest issued by the US State Department. This implies that a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks exists in the planned travel.
In addition, the US government may only provide limited assistance. More than 100 other nations are under level 4 advisory, including France, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, and Mexico.
US Olympic Committee Confident They’ll Be Safe
Meanwhile, the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee insisted that American athletes will stay fine even if they compete this summer in Tokyo.
Except for North Korea that already said it will pull out due to coronavirus concerns, no other country formally pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics.
“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.
No International Fans Allowed At Tokyo Olympics
Even as the Tokyo Olympics organizers originally projected 600,000 fans from abroad, they already ruled out any international spectators as early as March.
However, the committee has yet to decide if local fans can watch in person. In the meantime, the organizers reduced the number of officials allowed to attend from overseas to 78,000, excluding the actual athletes.
Japan’s slow vaccinations mean a continued restriction on bars, restaurants, and large gatherings. Just over 3% of the island nation’s population received vaccinations, the lowest among the 37 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In contrast, the more populous US already vaccinated nearly 50% of its citizens.
Watch the Bloomberg Markets And Finance video reporting that the US warns on Japan travel, sowing new doubt on Olympics:
Do you think Japan should continue with the Tokyo Olympics this year? Or, do you think they should step back and consider the whole global situation?
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