Japan is considering allowing the entry of foreigners, with certain conditions, starting in October, the government said on Wednesday, September 23.
Most of the beneficiaries of the new travel regulation will be foreigners who have a medium-length visa of more than three months. This would exclude those with tourist visas.
Several government sources said the proposal is to allow up to 1,000 people a day into the country.
Who is Allowed Into Japan Now?
As of September 23, Japan was still refusing the entry of people from 159 countries.
However, from earlier in September, those with resident cards were already allowed back into Japan.
In August, Japan reached bilateral agreements with 16 countries to allow the controlled resumption of international travel. These were countries where the COVID-19 infection had been kept under control. They included Thailand and Vietnam, both of which placed conditions involving extra COVID-19 prevention measures even on domestic business travel.
Also from August, Japan started to allow government-sponsored international students to enter the country.
What to Look for Going Forward
From October, it is expected that students, including those who are privately financed, will be allowed into the country.
Other categories expected to be prioritized include non-residents who have a visa for more than three months in Japan. These include medical staff, people working in the sports and education sectors, and business people with long-term visas.
It is expected that the first condition of entry will be the requirement of taking a valid PCR test and demonstrating a negative result. The condition of undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival, which is currently in effect, will continue.
It has yet to be confirmed if travelers from the 16 countries that reached bilateral agreements with Japan will be counted separately from the new quota of 1,000 people per day.
In addition, government officials shared with the Sankei Shimbun the Ministry of Health’s intention of expanding PCR testing capacity, not just at Tokyo Haneda, Narita, and Kansai international airports, but also at Shin-Chitose in Hokkaido, Fukuoka in Kyushu, and Chubu near Nagoya.
Discussions on Timeframe Underway
However, when asked in press conferences, top government officials, including the Chief Cabinet Secretary and the Minister of Revitalization, refrained from being specific about the timeline for easing restrictions, stating that the COVID-19 situation needed to be continuously monitored.
In the press conference on September 23, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato explained, “This is not the time to share concrete timeframes.” However, he also said: “Taking appropriate precautions to avoid the spread of infection, we understand the importance of resuming international travel. And we are carefully considering the situation.”
Minister for Economic Revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura also commented in a separate press conference: “While preventing the spread of infection, we are reaching the point when international exchange will be partially and gradually expanded. Discussions are underway among the relevant ministries about how to resume the traffic of new people entering the country. The schedule has not yet been decided, but we would like to discuss it thoroughly as soon the relevant government subcommittees are ready.”
The lack of travel in and out of the country is coming as a great shock to the airline industry in Japan. Before the pandemic, Japan registered for the first time more than 30 million tourists in 2019, a trend that was set to increase with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics scheduled in summer 2020.
(Click here to read a related article in Japanese).
Author: Arielle Busetto