Japan to Restrict Foreign Arrivals Over New COVID Variant
The Japanese Prime Minister announces that his country will ban foreign arrivals and tighten measures amid the spread of new Omnicron coronavirus variant.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday that his country will reinstate tough border measures by barring all new foreign arrivals over the Omicron COVID-19 variant, just weeks after Japan softened strict entry rules.
"We will ban the (new) entry of foreigners from around the world starting from November 30th," Kishida told reporters.
Japan's borders have been almost entirely closed to new overseas visitors for most of the pandemic.
In early November, the government announced it would finally allow some short-term business travelers, foreign students, and other visa holders to enter the country, while continuing to forbid tourists.
According to Japanese media, around 370,000 visa holders are waiting to enter the country and will be gradually admitted.
Tokyo had already announced on Friday it would require travelers permitted to enter Japan from six southern African countries to quarantine in government-designated facilities for 10 days on arrival. The step was expanded to a total of nine countries over the weekend.
Travelers coming from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique are all affected by the decision.
Kishida said Monday that further quarantine restrictions would be imposed on arrivals from an additional 14 countries and regions where the variant has been detected, without giving further details.
The prime minister said Japan is "in a stronger position against the Omicron variant than other countries."
Japan has recorded just over 18,300 coronavirus deaths during the pandemic while avoiding tough lockdowns. After a slow start, the country's vaccination program picked up speed, with 76.5 percent of the population now fully vaccinated.
The country has not detected any Omnicron cases, but the National Institute of Infectious Diseases is analyzing a case of a traveler from Namibia who recently tested positive for the coronavirus.