Photo/Illutration National Stadium, a main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Games, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

As the one-year countdown starts for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021, the Japanese government has begun discussing easing travel restrictions for athletes and Olympic officials. 

The government on July 13 started a discussion to draw up concrete plans to host the postponed Olympics and Paralympics next summer safely while concerns swirl amid the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Security Secretariat, Foreign Ministry, health ministry among other government agencies, as well as the Games’ organizers, are involved in the planning.

Several Tokyo 2020 test events are scheduled next spring.

The government hopes to draw up a new plan that include measures for disease control by the end of the year and send a clear message out that the host nation is ready to welcome Olympians and Paralympians from around the world.

The government has already sought to ease travel restrictions between four countries that have relatively contained the novel coronavirus pandemic, including Vietnam.

Hoping to revive the traffic of business travelers, the government is expected to start talks with about 10 countries and regions including China, South Korea and Taiwan.

For business travelers, the government can afford to pick and choose low-risk countries and regions to ease travel restrictions.

But for the Olympics and Paralympics, the government has to open up to almost every country and region in the world, some of which are seeing the number of new daily COVID-19 cases going through the roof.

Similar to the measures instituted for business travelers, athletes and Games officials will be required to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before their departure to Japan and upon their arrival.

The athletes and officials will more likely to be required to stay in a limited location. The number of people accompanying the athletes will also be kept to a minimum.

Developing countries may need support to conduct vaccination programs if a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

For athletes representing Japan, the government is seeking ways to exempt them from being required to self-isolate at home for two weeks after returning from abroad. Forced to do so could further delay the Olympic qualifying process for the nation's athletes.