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Japan scales up COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of Olympics as U.S. issues travel warning

Click to play video: 'Olympics officials try to shore up more support ahead of Tokyo Games' Olympics officials try to shore up more support ahead of Tokyo Games
WATCH: Olympics officials try to shore up more support ahead of Tokyo Games – May 25, 2021

The Japanese government Tuesday was quick to deny a U.S. warning for Americans to avoid traveling to Japan would have an impact on Olympians wanting to compete in the postponed Tokyo Games.

U.S. officials cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan caused by virus variants that may even be risky to vaccinated people. They didn’t ban Americans from visiting Japan, but the warnings could affect insurance rates and whether Olympic athletes and other participants decide to join the games that open on July 23.

Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency and expected to remain so through mid-June because of rising serious COVID-19 cases that are putting pressure on the country’s medical care systems. That raises concern about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain stressed and little of its population is vaccinated.

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Click to play video: 'Growing calls for Tokyo Summer Olympics to be cancelled over COVID-19' Growing calls for Tokyo Summer Olympics to be cancelled over COVID-19
Growing calls for Tokyo Summer Olympics to be cancelled over COVID-19 – May 19, 2021

Read more: Tokyo Olympics will ‘absolutely’ go ahead despite COVID-19 state of emergency, says IOC

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference Tuesday that the warning does not prohibit essential travel and Japan believes the U.S. support for Tokyo’s effort to hold the Olympics is unchanged.

“We believe there is no change to the U.S. position supporting the Japanese government’s determination to achieve the games,” Kato said, adding that Washington has told Tokyo the travel warning is not related to the participation of the U.S. Olympic team.

Click to play video: 'Japan sees no direct impact on Olympics as U.S. issues travel advisory' Japan sees no direct impact on Olympics as U.S. issues travel advisory
Japan sees no direct impact on Olympics as U.S. issues travel advisory – May 25, 2021

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it still anticipates American athletes will be able to safely compete at the Tokyo Games.

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Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, echoed the remarks of the USOPC.

“I’m aware the USOPC said that the advisory wouldn’t affect the games,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to prepare well to accept athletes under such restrictions.”

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Tokyo 2020 president acknowledges anti-Olympics petition as Japan faces 4th COVID-19 wave – May 14, 2021

Fans coming from abroad were banned from the Tokyo Olympics months ago, but athletes, families, sporting officials from around the world and other stakeholders still amount to a mass influx of international travelers.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Tuesday that it is still ironing out details of a policy by which national teams fly in additional medical staff for games so as not to burden Japan’s own systems.

It said the policy would “be a further measure to ensure safe and secure Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.” It did not say when it would be finalized or how many additional staff were needed.

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Olympic organizers have said the Games, postponed from last year, will go ahead by adopting strict safety measures, including ensuring athletes do not mix with the Japanese public, but there is growing opposition to the Olympics which start on July 23.

Read more: Canadians divided over sending Team Canada athletes to Tokyo Olympics, poll says

In opinion polls, the Japanese public has expressed opposition to holding the games out of safety concerns while most people will not be vaccinated.

The U.S. warning from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: “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 State Department’s warning was blunter: “Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19,” it said.

Click to play video: 'No thoughts of cancelling Olympics despite Japan’s rise in COVID-19 cases: IOC' No thoughts of cancelling Olympics despite Japan’s rise in COVID-19 cases: IOC
No thoughts of cancelling Olympics despite Japan’s rise in COVID-19 cases: IOC – May 12, 2021

China, which is to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, suggested caution in travel abroad.

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“At present, the world is still facing a grave situation of fighting COVID-19,” foreign minister spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday at a daily briefing. “For protecting people’s health and safety, we advise Chinese citizens to avoid unnecessary cross-border travels.”

Japan has recorded about 719,000 novel coronavirus cases. The numbers are low compared with other countries but much of the country remains under emergency curbs due to a strained medical system and Japan’s vaccination drive has been slow, with only 5% of the population inoculated.

— with Reuters files and Global News files 

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