The White House said on Monday (local time) that President Joe Biden will not attend the Tokyo Olympics, which will open on July 23. The decision seems to have been affected by aggravating COVID-19 situation in Tokyo with less than a month to go before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing on the day that President Biden is not planning to attend the Olympic Games but he will “certainly be rooting for the athletes,” adding the U.S. will send a delegation to the Olympics. According to U.S. media reports, the U.S. is considering sending First Lady Jill Biden to the Olympics instead. In 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama led the presidential delegation from the U.S. to the London Olympics.
According to Politico, global health experts have been expressing concerns over the Tokyo Olympics, which could become a COVID-19 super-spreader event. The fact that Japan’s COVID-19 vaccination rate remains at a mere 9 percent adds to the concern. In particular, some of the athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics have refused to take a vaccine out of fear that the side effects of any COVID-19 vaccine, including blood clot would negatively affect their performance at the Olympics. Athletes are not obligated to be vaccinated before the Olympics.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo reached 317 on Monday, exceeding the number of confirmed cases a week ago for the ninth consecutive day. The city is showing signs of another COVID-19 spike. It is largely affected by the decision by the Japanese government to lift the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, which led to an increase in travel. The number of people in downtown areas increased for five straight weeks before the lifting of state of emergency, and the movement of people jumped 7.1 percent at night and 1.3 percent during the day for three days after the state of emergency was lifted, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.