President of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee Seiko Hashimoto answers a question during a news conference in Tokyo on May 12, 2021 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board meeting. (KIMIMASA MAYAMA / POOL / AFP)
TOKYO - Athletes from India and other south Asian countries hardest hit by COVID-19 may have difficulty entering Japan for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer because of travel restrictions imposed by the Japanese government.
Tokyo Olympic President Seiko Hashimoto told reporters here on Friday that organizers will provide the necessary help for their entry, but that the final decision will be made by the central government of Japan.
India, currently the world's worst-hit country by COVID-19, confirmed 343,144 new cases in the past 24 hours on Friday, the Indian health ministry said
"The border control is being managed by the central government," she said. "In the framework, we will do our best to support the entry of athletes coming from south Asian countries... but the eventual decision is up to the government to make."
Starting on Friday, the Japanese government has banned foreign nationals from entering the country if they have recently spent time in India, Nepal or Pakistan in the 14 days prior to their arrival.
India, currently the world's worst-hit country by COVID-19, confirmed 343,144 new cases in the past 24 hours on Friday, the Indian health ministry said. The country's death toll increased to 262,317, with 4,000 more deaths since Thursday morning.
Japan has been suffering a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections since April, which forced Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to expand the state of emergency to three more prefectures on Friday.
According to a recent poll, 59 percent of the Japanese people want the Olympic Games to be canceled.
An online petition campaign, called "Stop Tokyo Olympics" has gathered more than 350,000 signatures, and has been submitted to Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee.
Hashimoto said of the petition, "I am aware of the situation. I hear their views. We do need to take the situation very seriously."
She added, "If we are not able to guarantee the health and safety of the Japanese public, we will not be in a position to hold the Games. We will also ensure the security of international visitors to Japan."
"We need to take stringent measures which can help overcome the concerns of the general public."
Hashimoto added that international media covering the Olympic Games will be "restricted" during their stay in Japan and follow the rules stipulated in the playbook.
While athletes and team members are left in a "bubble" and stay away from the public, media personnel will be able to move around freely within a few days of their arrival.
Hashimoto said that she is "facing a very challenging situation" to decide what restrictions should be imposed on the media and how to control their movement.
"We are undergoing continued and heated discussions internally on what we should be doing," she said.
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