Japan to cut 7-day quarantine period for those entering country to 3 days – Nationwide
Japan is considering shortening the quarantine period for those entering the country from the current seven days to three, as part of its eased COVID-19 border controls, government sources said. Starting in March, the government is also planning to raise the limit on the number of new entrants to 5,000 a day from the current 3,500, according to the sources. It is expected to accept foreign nationals wishing to enter Japan for non-tourism purposes within that daily limit. The head of a COVID-19 advisory panel for the health ministry, Takaji Wakita, said the recent surge in coronavirus infections in Japan likely “peaked” in early February even though caution is still warranted.
Japan’s border controls have come under international criticism from companies to students for being too stringent as they include an entry ban on non-resident foreign nationals imposed since late November until the end of February. Since then, only a very limited number of foreign nationals have been allowed entry as exceptions. But Japanese government officials have lately been discussing how much the restrictions, initially designed to keep the inflow of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus to a minimum, can be relaxed.
If the envisaged change is made, self-quarantine at home or other accommodation facilities will end after people test negative for COVID-19 on the third day, the sources said. The government may scrap the quarantine period altogether on condition that new entrants can satisfy the requirements, including having been vaccinated three times, according to the sources.
Some 150,000 foreign students who hold Japan visas were unable to enter the country by the end of last year due to its COVID-19 border controls, according to the government. The health ministry advisory panel led by infectious disease expert Wakita assessed the infection trend, with data showing a week-on-week fall in the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in most age brackets. But Wakita warned of a rebound unless infection numbers fall further.
Japan’s top business lobby calls for border controls to be eased more – Nationwide
The head of Japan’s largest business lobby suggested that the country’s border controls aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus are not based on epidemiological grounds, calling on the government to further ease them by simplifying immigration procedures.
Masakazu Tokura, who leads the Japan Business Federation, said at a press conference that the government’s decision to raise the cap on the daily number of new entrants from the current 3,500 to 5,000 starting next month is not enough. Tokura said he believes the real reasons behind the lack of easing are complicated immigration and tracing procedures for people entering Japan. To solve what he sees as the bottleneck, the chairman of the lobby, also known as Keidanren, requested the government to use more digital technology. He, however, said the decision last week marked “a first step in paving a way toward allowing people to travel internationally.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his government will relax in March Japan’s border controls in the wake of criticism from business and academic circles at home and abroad. Within the new daily cap, foreign nationals will be able to enter the country for purposes other than tourism. Tokyo and many other areas remain under a quasi-state of emergency, which allows prefectural governors to ask restaurants and bars to close early and stop serving alcohol. But some health experts have started saying that the latest resurgence of infections driven by the Omicron variant of the virus has likely peaked after hitting the country for more than a month.
Japan extends COVID quasi-emergency in 17 prefectures; ends it in 5 others – Nationwide
Japan extended COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency measures until March 6 in 17 prefectures, including Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka, to curb coronavirus infections and will end them Sunday in five other prefectures. The extension means that 31 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including Tokyo, will remain under a quasi-state of emergency into March. The measures allow the prefectures’ governors to request that restaurants and bars close early and stop serving alcohol.
Shigeru Omi, the government’s top COVID adviser, told a press conference, after a government panel approved the extensions, that two of its members opposed the extension, saying the Omicron variant, which is said to cause no or mild symptoms, does not call for such restrictions. But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asked for understanding regarding the decision. “I am making the request as I believe that through proceeding with various measures, we will achieve certain results,” he said during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting.
Hitoshi Kikawada, senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office, told the panel that the 17 prefectures seeking extensions “face the possibility of an increase in the number of patients with severe symptoms and need to reduce the burden on their health care systems.” Kikawada said the strain on hospitals had eased in the five other prefectures — Yamagata, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Oita and Okinawa.