The United States has warned Americans against travel to Japan due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, which is preparing to host the Olympics in just two months.
US officials cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan caused by virus variants. They said that even vaccinated people may be at risk.
“Because of the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The State Department’s warning was more blunt. “Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19,” it said.
The warnings could affect insurance rates and whether Olympic athletes and other participants decide to join the Games that begin on July 23.
Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency and expected to remain so until mid-June.
A rise in COVID-19 cases has put the country's medical care system under strain, raising concern over the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants.
Japan downplays warning
The Japanese government on Tuesday was quick to deny the warning would have an impact on Olympians wanting to compete in the postponed Tokyo Games.
“We believe there is no change to the US position supporting the Japanese government's determination to achieve the Games,” Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Tuesday.
He added that Washington has told Tokyo the travel warning is not related to the participation of the US Olympic team.
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it still anticipates American athletes will be able to safely compete at the Tokyo Games.
Fans coming from abroad were banned from the Tokyo Olympics months ago, but athletes, families, sporting officials from around the world and other stakeholders still amount to a mass influx of international travellers.
In polls, the Japanese public has expressed opposition to holding the Games as most of the population will not be vaccinated.