United States citizens have been warned against travelling to Japan a little over eight weeks out from the Olympics.
With public opinion in Japan increasingly turning against the Games going ahead as the country struggles to get to grips with an increase in Covid cases, the announcement is a further blow to under-fire organisers.
The US Centre for Disease Control warned: “Because of the current situation in Japan, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 variants, and should avoid all travel to Japan. If you must travel to Japan, get fully vaccinated before travel.”
Despite the warning, US Olympic officials are still confident their athletes and officials will be able to travel to and compete at the Games, which get under way on July 23.
In a statement, it said: “We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organising Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer.”
In addition, government officials in the Olympic host nation said “there is no change in the US position to support the Japanese government’s determination to realise the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics”.
The International Olympic Committee is confident the majority of athletes will be fully vaccinated before the year-long delayed Games but has not insisted on it being a prerequisite to compete.
A total of 11,000 athletes and some 78,000 people in total, including team support staff, technical officials, IOC members and media are expected to converge on the Japanese capital for the Games.
Japan has, for the most part, closed its borders, not allowing either tourists or business travellers in over fears around coronavirus.
The country has had 700,000 infections in total and 12,000 deaths in total, low in comparison to many parts of the world but high among its neighbours.
The rise in cases has heightened fears among a public of which just 2% have been vaccinated against the virus, despite the Japanese Government promising to ramp up its vaccination programme with as many as one million jabs a day.
Tokyo itself is still in a state of emergency along with other parts of the country but the national government, Games organising committee and the IOC are adamant the Games will go ahead, and are confident they can be delivered safely and securely.