The U.S. State Department issued its highest-level advisory against traveling to July’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on Monday. They cited a sharp rise in COVID cases as the reasoning behind the guidance.
The Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed last year due to COVID-19, are now facing an uphill battle to curb a sharp rise in new cases of the virus. A troubling sign for the Summer Games with time ticking away on whether or not conditions will improve.
According to the department’s website, the “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory has been issued prior to international countries with extremely high levels of widespread outbreaks. Japan has also restricted US citizens since the start of the pandemic with “very few exceptions” on entrance into the country under rare circumstances. A factor that hasn’t changed despite declining cases in all 50 states.
Japan lifted a state of emergency in March, but cases have crept up since that point. A couple reasons for the increase is a shortage of medical professionals, along with a slower-than-usual vaccine roll out with a reported 2% of all adults receiving at least their first dose of the vaccine. However, government officials said there are plans to open two large-scale vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka in the coming weeks. Three days ago, the Health Ministry formally approved Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines for use in Japan.
“The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, an organization of about 6,000 doctors in Tokyo, recently penned a letter calling for a cancellation, while a petition that got 350,000 signatures in nine days in support of a cancellation was submitted to Olympic organizers,” according to a report by CNN.
It’s not just those in the medical sector who are concerned about the Olympics being held in Japan. The CEO of Rakuten said two weeks ago that holding the Summer Games amid the pandemic will be a “suicide mission.”
“The fact that we are so late for the vaccination, it’s really dangerous to host the big international event,” Hiroshi Mikitani said in an interview. The founder of the e-commerce giant has been an outspoken critic of the Japanese government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of the International Olympic Committee, President Thomas Bach said last week that Tokyo 2020 officials would “make the right decision on managing the situation” and that the “risks had been managed well so far.” A majority of Olympians will be fully vaccinated by the start of the Games, according to the IOC.
The Games are still scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8 in Japan.