November 28, 2021

US Warns Against Travel To Japan Due To Covid-19 Risk, Sowing New Olympics Doubt, United States News & Top Stories

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The United States has said Americans should avoid traveling to Japan as the country is in a state of emergency due to a growing Covid-19 epidemic that has cast doubt on plans for Tokyo to host the Olympics in less than two months.

The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory to level four on Monday, May 24, placing Japan in a category with a wide range of countries from Latin America to Europe that Americans are urged to avoid due to coronavirus problems.

The action is yet another blow to a country struggling to convince its own public and the international community that it is ready to host the Summer Olympics from July 23, after they were postponed to 2020.

Coronavirus cases in Japan are increasing largely because it has been slow with the rollout of its vaccine. Just over 3% of the island nation’s population has been vaccinated, the lowest among 37 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. This compares to over 40 percent in the US and UK.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this month extended the state of emergency that covers Tokyo and extended it to two other regions affected by the increase in virus cases, with the aim of stemming infections before the Olympic Games.

The latest wave of Covid-19 was largely brought on by more infectious strains from overseas, adding to concerns over the invitation of thousands of foreign participants, including athletes and officials.

Initially, 600,000 overseas fans were expected to attend, but organizers ruled out the possibility in March.

Organizers are expected to decide soon whether even local spectators will be allowed to watch the competitions in person. They have already reduced the number of officials and other people expected from abroad to around 78,000, not counting the athletes.

Some foreign athletes have expressed safety concerns, with the US track team canceling pre-Olympic training in the country.

Japan began vaccination efforts with healthcare workers after the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February. Progress has since been hampered by a conservative medical culture, with local safety testing required before vaccines can be approved and only doctors and nurses are allowed to administer injections.

A law giving responsibility for vaccinations to local municipalities and testing of a new online reservation system added to the delays.

Japan finally approved vaccines developed by Moderna and AstraZeneca last week, and the rate of inoculation has accelerated to nearly 500,000 doses administered daily. It is still behind the million target set by Mr. Suga.

The Japanese Consulate General in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the United States’ decision.

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