The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of State have issued new travel advisories that reduce the threat of COVID-19 in more than 90 countries and territories, including Japan, which is in the throes of another wave of infections ahead of next month’s Olympics.
The CDC lowered Japan from its highest risk category – Level 4 – to Level 3, on Monday, Reuters first reported. It also moved 61 other countries to the same level and another 50 were downgraded to Level 2 or Level 1. In addition, the CDC has revised its rating for the United States from Level 4 to Level 3.
Just last month the The State Department warned Americans not to travel to this summer’s Olympic host country, issuing a Level 4: No Travel Advisory for Japan. That sparked international controversy as Japanese officials insisted the country would be prepared for the Games starting on July 23, after being postponed for a year due to the pandemic.
But on Tuesday, the State Department followed the CDC’s lead and gave the country… a new Level 3 rating. The change isn’t an enthusiastic endorsement, as the directive urges Americans to “rethink travel to Japan,” but it brings the department closer to the White House’s stance on the issue. The Biden administration has endorsed the Tokyo Olympics, despite dire warnings from health experts in Japan.
Health conditions across Japan remain grim as officials fail to contain the spread of the virus
As Anthony Kuhn of NPR reported, “The distribution in Japan of variant strains of the virus have slowed the decline in cases. Some hospitals stay overloaded by COVID-19 patients, and some people have died at home without being able to access medical care.”
The country has also been slow to roll out vaccines – less than 4% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The cumulative effect of the circumstances has led to voices being raised in Japan against the Olympics.
But regardless of the grim reality, Japanese officials are adamant that the Games will go ahead safely. And the International Olympic Committee plans to implement strict virus prevention measures, including keeping athletes separate from the general population. The IOC is also ban foreign fans of the Games.
Doctors warn of Olympic cornavirus strain
But even with those measures, the head of a Japanese doctors’ union warned late last month of the dangers of a possible… Olympic coronavirus strain with the arrival of tens of thousands of visitors from 200 countries around the world.
“All the different mutated strains of the virus that exist in different places will be concentrated and collected here in Tokyo,” Naoto Ueyama said at a news conference on May 27, Reuters reported. “We cannot deny the possibility that even a new strain of the virus may emerge.”
Ueyama added: “If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean that an Olympic strain of the virus in Tokyo is named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something that would be the target of criticism even for 100 years. “