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U.S. warns against travel to Japan, adding pressure as officials try to salvage COVID-battered Tokyo Olympics

CDC warns against travel to Japan
Japan faces pre-Olympics COVID surge, prompting CDC to warn Americans against traveling there 01:56

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned Americans against traveling to Japan because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, and that includes people who might have been hoping to soak up the atmosphere during this summer's Tokyo Olympics. The advisory will not keep U.S. athletes out of the Summer Games, but it does increase the already-tremendous pressure on the Olympics' organizers.

When Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, the Japanese were ecstatic. But now, the coronavirus is surging across the country for a fourth time, less than two months before the opening ceremony.

A new survey indicates that the vast majority of Japan's residents, more than eight in ten people, believe the Games should be postponed again, or cancelled altogether. 

Dance instructor Saori Yamashita is one of them. She fears the Olympics could cause yet another surge in COVID-19 infections in the country and, with it, another state of emergency that would force her school to close.

Tokyo-based political scientist Koichi Nakano said that was a real possibility.

If the Games do go on, "it would possibly be a super-spreader event," Nakano told CBS News.

Japan begins Olympic torch relay after a year of setbacks 01:41

That's in part why the U.S. State Department has warned Americans in plain language: "Do not travel to Japan due to COVID-19."

Of the roughly 126 million people in Japan, only about 2% have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus so far, compared to nearly 40% in the U.S.

For months, only the Pfizer vaccine was available in Japan. On Friday, the government finally approved both the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, too.

But as the mass-vaccination program ramps up, health care systems in some big cities, including Osaka, have been described as teetering on the brink of collapse. That has highlighted the question on many peoples' minds: Even if the Games can be pulled off, should they?

"No, I think it's just not feasible," said Nakano. "People are upset now. Not just with the Japanese government but with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] - the arrogance in assuming that Japan is willing to host, in spite of overwhelming public opinion against."

But despite that tide of public opinion, both the IOC and Japan's government and Olympic Planning Committee have remained adamant that the Games can be pulled off safely with the right precautions.

So far, those restrictions include banning foreign spectators from Olympic events, and the State Department warning has made it clear that from the U.S. government's perspective, any travel to Japan in the near future, regardless of the Summer Games, is not worth the risk.

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