Japan to ease entry restrictions but maintain ban on tourists

Tokyo, Sep 30 (efe-epa).- From Oct. 1, Japan will allow foreign businessmen and students into the country while maintaining a ban on tourists from 159 countries that has been in place for months on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure is yet another step in the gradual easing of border restrictions that the Japanese authorities began to impose in March on some countries and subsequently extended to cover almost everyone in order to prevent the import of new coronavirus infections.

The new plan, which has the backing of a government-appointed coronavirus advisory panel, will allow the entry of foreigners from any country with a visa of three months or more and for non-tourism purposes starting Oct. 1, senior government officials explained at a press conference on Wednesday.

This includes people traveling to Japan for business, to study, take part in cultural exchanges or work in the medical sector as well as dependents of foreign workers resident in the Asian country.

The government had suspended the validity of all new visas in these categories and also stopped the granting of new residence permits under its border restrictions over the past six months.

However, the number of foreigners who will be able to enter Japan will be determined by the Japanese airports’ current capacity to conduct COVID-19 tests, the government officials said.

This means that, for now, only about 1,000 foreigners can arrive daily, according to Shoji Watanabe, the head of coronavirus control in the Cabinet Secretariat, who added that the authorities are working to increase that testing capacity.

Japanese airports can currently conduct about 10,000 tests per day although most of them are reserved for Japanese citizens returning to their country from overseas, the official added.

Foreigners traveling to Japan must undergo a PCR test before departing from their countries and another one upon their arrival at the airport in addition to presenting a medical certificate certifying the negative result of the first test and completing a 14-day quarantine.

Since Sep. 1, the Japanese authorities have also allowed the return of foreign resident who traveled overseas before or after the restrictions came into effect, after fulfilling the testing and quarantine requirements.

In addition, Japan has eased entry conditions for mid- and long-term travelers from seven Southeast Asian countries and is negotiating similar measures with 16 other nations in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, Australia and South Korea

The Japanese government’s decision to ease border restrictions follows criticism by business organizations, educational institutions and the community of foreign residents, which described the measures as discriminatory.

Japan will, however, continue to implement until further notice the ban on the entry of travelers from a list of 159 countries for tourism purposes or those who do not comply with the conditions laid down. EFE-EPA


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