The U.S. has experienced a significant improvement in the fight against COVID, with new cases dropping to levels we haven't seen in a year and almost 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, the same progress made here against the virus is hardly global, and as a result, the U.S. State Department has now issued a new travel advisory warning Americans not to travel to Japan.
On May 24, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory for the country, the highest warning the department can issue. "Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19," the warning reads, noting "a very high level of COVID-19 in the country."
The CDC, whose data helps advise the State Department, issues a Level 4 warning for any country that reports more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days. According to The Japan Times, the CDC measured Japan's rate as 120 cases per 100,000 people on May 21. "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 CDC warned in a statement released May 24.
Japan is also not progressing well on the vaccination front, either. According to The New York Times, less than five percent of residents in Japan have received their first shot of a coronavirus vaccine. In fact, the country is at the very bottom of the list of major developed nations in terms of vaccination rates.
The U.S. State Department's warning comes two months before the Olympics, which is set to take place in Tokyo starting July 23 after being delayed a year due to the pandemic.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) told Reuters that the travel warning won't affect American athletes from participating in the Games this year, however. "We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing 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," the USOPC said in a statement after the State Department issued its warning.
Americans spectators, on the other hand, have already been barred from attending the Olympics this year, alongside all foreign fans. Still, there have been many calls for Japan to cancel the Games entirely; an online petition to cancel the Olympics has received more than 393,000 signatures in three weeks.
"The Olympics should be stopped," Akira Takasu, PhD, the head of emergency medicine at Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital in Osaka, Japan, told Reuters. "This may be a trigger for another disaster this summer."