With the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to start on July 23, the U.S. State Department is warning Americans against traveling to Japan amid a COVID-19 spike.
Just 1.9% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, well behind other developed nations as Japan has struggled with supply and organizational problems. The resulting spike in cases has left hospitals overwhelmed, with some running out of beds and ventilators, according to BBC News.
The crisis has led to states of emergencies declared across the country and mounting pressure to cancel the Olympic Games that were postponed from last summer at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the State Department issued a Level 4 "do not travel" advisory warning Americans against traveling to Japan.
"Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19," the advisory reads. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Japan due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country. There are restrictions in place affecting U.S. citizen entry into Japan."
The Level 4 advisory is the highest issued by the State Department.
IOC committed to holding Tokyo Games
The International Olympic Committee remains committed to holding the Games despite growing opposition from within Japan to call them off. An online petition titled "Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives" had gained more than 385,000 signatures as of Monday.
"The lack of medical resources that Tokyo and the rest of Japan is suffering from should suggest just how much the games will cause danger and fear to healthcare workers, citizens, and participants," the petition reads.
A poll of Japanese citizens published on May 16 shows that more than 80% or respondents oppose holding the Olympics as scheduled.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in April that he doesn't have the authority to cancel the Games, citing a contract that grants that power strictly to the IOC.
“The IOC has the authority to decide,” Suga said. “And the IOC has already decided to hold the Tokyo Olympics.”
IOC board member Dick Pound confirmed to Yahoo Sports last week that the organization remains confident in its ability to safely conduct the Games.
“Our experts are satisfied that it can be done,” Pound said. "We can do this, and we should do it.”
In the meantime, the official U.S. stance is that traveling to Japan presents a significant health risk.
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