Second gentleman Doug Emhoff heading Team USA Paralympics delegation in first foreign trip

Emhoff heads to Tokyo amid surge in Covid-19 infections

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 11 August 2021 15:53 BST
Related video: Protesters gather outside Tokyo stadium ahead of Olympics closing ceremony

Doug Emhoff is setting off to Tokyo to lead the US delegation to the 2020 Paralympics in his first foreign trip as second gentleman.

The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the opening ceremony in Tokyo on 24 August along with the acting top diplomat at the US embassy in the city, Raymond Greene, the White House announced on Tuesday. Mr Greene leads the embassy until the arrival of a new ambassador.

Last month, the first lady, Jill Biden, led the US delegation to the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed for a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was her first solo trip since entering the office in January.

Dr Biden met with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Emperor Naruhito during her visit. She also cheered on Team USA during several events before departing.

Mr Emhoff is the first second gentleman in US history. The former Los Angeles entertainment lawyer has crisscrossed the country promoting President Biden’s agenda and urging people to get vaccinated.

He visited a vaccine clinic in Topeka, Kansas on Monday along with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency because of a rise in Covid-19 infections. Both Japanese residents and international fans were banned from attending events at various venues, leading to an Olympic Games with empty stands. The closing ceremony was held on Sunday night.

Around 4.400 athletes will take part in 539 events across 22 sports that will be hosted at 21 venues during the Paralympic Games.

Since the start of the Olympics, Japan has experienced a surge of Covid-19 cases, putting hospitals into overdrive.

Around 170,000 people have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the Olympics and at least 178 have died. Tokyo reached a record-setting number of new cases on Thursday – 5,042.

In total, more than one million people in Japan have been infected and 15,309 people have died.

But the IOC has said that there’s no connection between the Olympics and the surge of cases, citing its “bubble system” of daily testing and movement restrictions on those accredited to the Olympics meaning interaction between athletes, journalists, and the Japanese public was severely limited.

“I don’t think that the Tokyo Olympics are the cause of the surge,” Mr Suga told reporters on Friday.

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