Japan: easing of border restrictions but not for tourists

Sylvie Claire / November 5, 2021

Japan announced on Friday an easing of its pandemic-related border restrictions, which will include business visas and foreign students, but not tourists at this stage.
As of Monday, the quarantine period will be reduced to three days (from the previous minimum of 10 days) for holders of vaccinated business visas, who will however have to comply with certain rules. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign students and trainees will be able to return to Japan, but this process will be gradual and governed by very strict health protocols. Seiji Kihara, deputy secretary general of the government, justified these changes by a wider deployment of vaccination and a request from the business community to relax border controls.
This announcement comes less than a week after the clear victory of the government coalition in the legislative elections of October 31 in Japan and while the number of coronavirus infections has fallen drastically (an average of 200 new cases per day, compared to more than 25,000 in August) and more than 73% of people are vaccinated with two doses. Although it quickly closed its borders, Japan has never imposed strict confinement on its population, mainly reducing the opening hours of bars and restaurants, as well as the sale of alcohol. 
The number of Covid-19 deaths has been relatively small compared to many other countries: about 18,300 deaths since the beginning of 2020). According to Japanese media, about 370,000 visa holders are waiting to enter Japan and will be allowed to do so gradually under the relaxation announced Friday.
Business travelers will be the responsibility of their companies while in Japan and will have to provide business plans for each visit, the Foreign Ministry said.  No indication was given as to when foreign tourists might be allowed back into Japan. Japan welcomed a record 31.9 million foreign visitors in 2019 and was on track to reach its pre-pandemic target of 40 million in 2020. 
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