Japan has announced on Monday that they will be closing their borders and suspending entry of foreign visitors due to the threat of the new coronavirus variant Omicron. Although it’s still yet to be determined by scientists if it’s a bigger threat than Delta, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the move an “emergency precaution to prevent a worst-case scenario” in the country.
Japan just recently eased their restrictions for foreign students and workers, but will now be going back to more strict travel guidelines once again.
While the WHO warned that fully understanding the new variant’s level of severity could take weeks, they still deemed that “the overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high.”
The Japanese Prime Minister did not say how long these restrictions would stay, but should it remain for the next few weeks as expected, some big combat sports events in Japan would be affected.
Gennady Golovkin is scheduled for a middleweight title unification bout against Ryota Murata on December 29, while Filipino IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas is booked to take on Japan’s Kazuto Ioka on December 31. Current rules don’t allow Golovkin and Ancajas to enter the country, putting the two events in jeopardy.
On the Japanese MMA side of things, there’s an annual tradition of hosting a massive event on New Year’s Eve, and current restrictions would mean that Rizin can’t involve their top stars from other countries. If it stands, they will again have to settle on featuring only locally based fighters, much like what they did in 2020 when the pandemic started.
Israel also took a similarly strong stance as Japan, while several other countries are also tightening up their border restrictions a bit due to the growing number of cases of the Omicron variant. This includes the US, which reportedly plans to ban travel from South Africa and several other countries in the region.
Should more countries follow suit, several combat sports, and sporting events and athletes in general, could be affected as well.