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Japan govt in damage control after U.S. travel advisory

  • May 26, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 1:28 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, May 26 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration is rushing to allay concerns about a possible cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics after a U.S. advisory against travel to Japan.

 

Amid worries that other countries may follow suit, the fate of the sporting events hangs in the balance with less than two months until the Olympic Games’ July 23 opening ceremony.

 

The U.S. Department of State on Monday raised its travel alert on Japan to Level 4, or “Do Not Travel,” highest on its four-tier scale, from Level 3, or “Reconsider Travel,” due to the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus in the Asian nation.

 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference Tuesday that the move is not related to U.S. plans to send its delegations to the Tokyo Games, stressing that the events will not be affected.

 

Tamayo Marukawa, minister for the Tokyo Games, told a separate press conference that she does not expect any specific impact of the U.S. action. A senior government official said that “a different scheme will be placed on athletes.”

 

Their comments came after the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee released a statement expressing its confidence that the current coronavirus mitigation measures and planned frequent testing will allow safe participation of U.S. athletes in the Tokyo Games.

 

The United States is not the only country concerned about the risks of travel to Japan, however.

 

Kato said that Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Laos also have advisories against travel to Japan. The list may expand if the state of domestic coronavirus infections worsens.

 

While Kato is busy with damage control, a government source said that the U.S. action raised the possibility that the country may back out of the Olympic and Paralympic Games if infections continue to increase in Japan.

 

Going ahead with the games despite increasing foreign government restrictions on travel to and from Japan may also strengthen the impression that the Suga government is ignoring public calls for a cancellation or a postponement.

 

At a meeting of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, parliamentary affairs chief Jun Azumi said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the risk of infections with coronavirus variants in Japan even after vaccinations.

 

“It does not make sense to say, ‘But it’s fine to be at the Olympics held here,'” Azumi said.

 

“The Olympics cannot and should not be held in a country with a ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory,” Akira Koike, head of the Japanese Communist Party’s secretariat, said on Twitter.

 

“I strongly demand that (the government) thoroughly investigate whether the Olympics can be held safely and securely,” Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, told a party meeting.

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