Tokyo Olympics Update

Tokyo Olympics Update

Courtesy of Global News.

May 25th news out of Tokyo and the IOC, especially vis-a-vis the latest travel advisory [read the Emergency Alert Information for American Citizens here] from the U.S. government. The news – at least from the perspective of the participating athletes – seems relatively positive.

The officials respond to the recent U.S. Department of State announcement, “The U.S. Embassy and consulates continue to monitor closely COVID-19 conditions in Japan. The Government of Japan expanded the national state of emergency declaration, which now covers Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Okayama, and Hiroshima prefectures. In addition, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu, Mie, Ehime, Okinawa, Gunma, Ishikawa, and Kumamoto are now designated as under modified states of emergency to curb increasing infection rates and diminishing health care capacity. These declarations remain effective through May 31, with the exception of those in Gunma, Ishikawa, and Kumamoto which remain in place until June 13, and may be extended again. Some prefectures are declaring their own additional states of emergency. There may be additional closure requests and COVID-19 mitigation measures put into place with little notice. U.S. citizens should carefully monitor local news and follow instructions from national and local authorities.

U.S. citizens are strongly urged to continue to take personal health measures to protect themselves, including socially distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend that U.S. citizens get flu shots to prevent a major flu outbreak. Finally, the U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to comply with all COVID-19 mitigation guidance from central and local government officials.

Face masks are almost universally worn in public, especially in urban areas, indoors and on public transportation. U.S. citizens should be aware that failure to adhere to mask-wearing norms reflects poorly on foreign residents.

The State Department further explains its most recent policy vis-a-vis entry into Japan. “U.S. citizens are only permitted to enter Japan under very limited situations. Travel for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the short term. Visa-free travel is suspended. Travelers who believe they qualify for an exception to Japan’s strict entry controls should contact their nearest Japanese Embassy or consulate for information.”

It is unclear whether or not American athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and media representatives – including the NBC broadcast team – will be permitted to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games – which would be, a major blow to the herculean efforts of the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, and the Japanese government under the most trying of circumstances.

Additional information from the State Department includes, “The Government of Japan makes no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers in its COVID-related entry requirements.  Vaccination status has no impact on an individual’s eligibility to travel to Japan, and Japan’s quarantine restrictions apply regardless of vaccination status.

So the vaccines received by American athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and media representatives apparently have no bearing on their participation in the Tokyo Olympics.

The travel advisory states, “The Government of Japan continues to enforce strict travel regulations that bar most foreigners from newly entering into Japan. Foreign tourists and non-resident foreign business travelers remain prohibited from entering Japan. Regardless of the international point of origin, all travelers entering Japan remain subject to a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival and are prohibited from using public transportation to include domestic flights, taxis, and rail. Travelers arriving from certain areas may be required to quarantine for a period of time in a government-designated location. Travelers arriving without proof of pre-travel COVID-19 testing, or tests completed more than 72 hours in advance of departure from the United States will be denied entry into Japan.”

Given the fact that Olympic athletes cannot enter Japan earlier than five days before their event, this situation appears to place the American team under a Catch 22 situation.

Furthermore, the Government of Japan designated the states of Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota, and Michigan as areas with confirmed spread of COVID-19 variants. Travelers who have been present in these areas for the 14 days preceding their arrival into Japan will be required to quarantine in a Government of Japan-provided facility for at least three days before being permitted to finish their self-quarantine period at home.

For updated information, visit here.

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. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Japan.

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Steven Munatones