White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week that Dr. Biden's team "will be following very strict safety and health protocols [and] limiting engagement with the public" during their Tokyo visit

By Virginia Chamlee
July 22, 2021 12:44 PM
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jill biden
Credit: STR/JAPAN POOL/AFP via Getty Images

First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Tokyo ahead of the Olympic Games on Thursday, where she will serve as the head of the U.S. delegation.

Dr. Biden, 70, wearing a red-orange dress and white floral mask, disembarked the plane around 3:30 p.m. Tokyo time, spending several minutes going down a line of greeters before boarding a military helicopter to head to the U.S. Embassy.

Later that evening, the first lady visited Akasaka Palace, where she had dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga.

Dr. Biden's trip to Tokyo marks her first solo outing abroad as first lady.

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Dr. Jill Biden
| Credit: STR/JAPAN POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The games are being held amid growing concern about COVID-19; Japan is under a state of emergency due to the virus.

Before heading to Japan, Dr. Biden made a stop in Alaska to encourage vaccinations in the U.S., where some parts of the country are also seeing dramatic spikes in the highly contagious Delta variant (due in large part, say medical professionals, to vaccine hesitancy).

Already delayed a year because of the pandemic, the 2020 Summer Games are set to begin on Friday, though a spike in cases are continuing to fuel safety concerns. The games are being held with no spectators present, though some foreign dignitaries (including the first lady) will be present at the opening ceremonies.

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Later in the week, Dr. Biden is expected to participate in another event with Mariko Suga, also held at the palace, and in a virtual meet-and-greet with members of Team USA, before meeting with Emperor Naruhito at Tokyo's Imperial Palace.

The head of the games has left open the possibility that the events could still be canceled due to the virus.

"We cannot predict what the epidemic will look like in the future. So as for what to do should there be any surge of positive cases, we'll discuss accordingly if that happens," Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said in a recent a news conference, adding: "At this stage, the coronavirus situation might get worse or better, so we will think about what to do when the situation actually arises."

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing the first lady and her staff would be moving ahead with their visit to Tokyo.

"She's still planning on attending the Games. And she looks forward to supporting, of course, the athletes who are competing on behalf of the United States," Psaki said. "We are monitoring the situation closely. Our team will be following very strict safety and health protocols, limiting engagement with the public, keeping our footprint as small as possible. We will be following very strict safety and health protocols limiting engagement with the public, keeping our footprint as small as possible."