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US travelers advised not to visit Japan with Olympics 2 months away

Tokyo Olympics symbols. Photo: Kyodo. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WASHINGTON D.C., May 24, 2021, Kyodo. The U.S. State Department on Monday issued an advisory to its citizens not to visit Japan due to the coronavirus pandemic, raising its travel alert to the highest level of 4 just two months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Kyodo News Agency reported.

The increase by one level came as Japan grapples with another wave of infections, with sources saying the government is considering extending the coronavirus state of emergency covering Tokyo, Osaka and other areas beyond the current expiration date of May 31.

The State Department said its latest assessment reflected the travel health notice by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which sees Japan facing a “very high level of COVID-19,” the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Because of the current situation in Japan even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Japan,” the CDC said.

The department did not mention in its advisory the Summer Olympics, scheduled to be staged from July 23 to Aug. 8, but the heightened alert level could affect U.S. decision-making on whether to send its athletes to the Asian country.

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s “efforts to hold a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer” when the two met in mid-April, according to a joint statement released after their talks.

The Japanese government has been emphasizing that the games can still be held safely, saying it will ensure proper anti-virus measures are in place for athletes and staff to participate.

John Coates, a top official of the International Olympic Committee, said Friday that the Tokyo Olympics can be held as planned even if the Japanese capital is under a state of emergency.

In March last year, the State Department issued an advisory for Americans to avoid all international travel amid the worldwide outbreak of the virus.

The global advisory was lifted in August, and the country-specific guidance for travelers to Japan had since remained at level 3, under which U.S. citizens are urged to “reconsider travel” to the destination.

The department has said it regularly assesses and updates the travel advisories, based primarily on the CDC’s travel health notices and other factors such as commercial flight availability and restrictions on the entry of U.S. citizens.

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