Jill Biden visits Tokyo amid growing concerns over Covid and the Olympics


However, Biden’s visit to launch the Olympics in support of American athletes comes as the number of Covid-19s rises in Japan, and in particular at the Games. As of Tuesday, the number of Tokyo Games-related cases had surpassed 70, despite strict guidelines such as multiple tests, social distancing requirements and mask wearing.

The 2020 Summer Games – already delayed by a year because of Covid-19 – are expected to start on Friday, as cases fuel security concerns.

“There has been no change, (Jill Biden) still plans to attend the games,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, adding: “The president, the first lady said that it was important that the delegation lead the highest So, she looks forward to continuing her travels. ”

Biden has a busy schedule for Japan, which includes not only the Olympics, but at least two diplomatic events.

After landing in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon at Yokota Air Base, the first lady will spend the evening dining at Akasaka Palace with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, the attaché told CNN. Biden Press Release, Michael LaRosa. The next day, Biden will host a bilateral event with Mariko Suga, also at the palace, before attending a meeting with members of Team USA. The meeting will take place virtually, by LaRosa.

Also on Friday, the first lady will have an audience with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Biden will then attend the Olympics Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. The ceremony will be scaled back due to Covid-19 precautions, organizers said, although details of how much that will change from its traditional pomp remain unclear days apart. There will be flag bearers from each of the participating countries, and a handful of VIPs and dignitaries in the stands, the First Lady included.

Biden’s Saturday in Tokyo includes a non-sporting event. She will dedicate a room in the residence of the chef de mission to Irene Hirano Inouye and Daniel Inouye, the late senator and recipient of the Hawaii Medal of Honor.

An evening of watching the US-Mexico softball game with US Embassy officials and their families follows, before Biden goes to “several Olympic events before leaving Tokyo,” according to a statement from the wing. is.

The most contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 now accounts for 83% of samples sequenced in the United States, the director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said on Tuesday in a hearing of the United States. Senate committee in Capitol Hill.

“This is a dramatic increase, up from 50% for the week of July 3,” she said.

Globally, the Delta variant remains a health concern, especially among the unvaccinated. Covid vaccines have been shown to be effective against contracting the Delta variant and preventing serious illness and hospitalizations if contracted.

In Japan, only 22.4% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to CNN’s Global Vaccine Tracker.

Due to the low number of vaccinated citizens and in an effort to control what could be a catastrophic epidemic, there will be no spectators in the stands and the entire Olympic Games will be held under the imposed state of emergency. by the country. , already in place.

It won’t be the first time Biden has competed in the Olympics to support American athletes. As the second lady in 2010, she and then-vice president Joe Biden attended the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Although the primary focus of his trip remains Japan and the Olympics, Biden takes the opportunity to visit two states entering and leaving the country, as part of his ongoing trip to several parts of the United States to encourage vaccinations against Covid-19. .

Prior to her arrival in Japan, the First Lady will make a stop in Alaska, where she will welcome military and veteran families upon landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Afterward, she will run the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage for a vaccination event.

On her way back to Washington from Japan, Biden made a stopover in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she will once again participate in an event focused on the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid.

Over the past few weeks, Biden has visited more than 10 states, each time participating in activities focused on increasing lagging immunization figures as the country tends to stagnate and the number of cases is at a standstill. new on the rise.

Psaki said on Tuesday that the first lady was fully aware of the issues facing the games as a result of Covid, and that she, her staff and her delegation would take precautions. “They will follow very strict health and safety protocols limiting engagement with the public, keeping our footprint as small as possible,” Psaki said.

Biden’s planned presence in person also comes as the Tokyo games manager made no promise on Tuesday that he would not impose an 11 hour Olympics cancellation if the number of Covid-19 cases increased. exponentially.

“We cannot predict what the outbreak will look like in the future. So as to what to do if there is an increase in the number of positive cases, we will discuss accordingly if that happens,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto at a press conference in Tokyo.

“At this point, the coronavirus situation could get worse or better, so we’ll think about what to do when the situation really arises,” Muto said.


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