Japan to reopen borders from June — with some lucky travellers getting early entry this month
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There aren’t too many countries that have deployed tighter COVID-19 travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic than Japan has.
But now, after two years of marooning itself to international visitors, plans are afoot for the country to open its borders for inbound travellers much sooner than many would have thought possible.
Speaking in London yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida teased the prospect of foreign tourists being permitted entry from next month: “At the end of last year, Japan strengthened its border control measures in response to the global spread of the Omicron variant.
“We have now eased border control measures significantly, with the next easing taking place in June when Japan will introduce a smoother entry process similar to that of other G7 members [Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, U.K., U.S.”] added the premier.
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The country is also set to experiment with opening its borders to small groups of vaccinated foreign tourists from this month.
First reported by Fuji News Network, these lucky select tourists must have had all vaccines and boosters to date in order to travel, and also have booked with an official package tour group with a ‘fixed itinerary’.
Officials will be keeping a close eye on the health of each traveller. If infections do not spread within these clusters of travel groups, the programme would be rolled out to a wider number of visitors.
Indeed, even Japan’s PM used his London speech to urge caution with regards to opening back up, informing the press that even the domestic infection rates would be closely tracked following Japan’s recent ‘Golden Week’ public holidays.
“As soon as June, based on the opinions of experts, we will review coronavirus regulations, including border policies, in stages,” the PM said. “We are still in a period of transition back to normal life.”
There’s no doubt tighter measures have helped curb the spread of the disease in Japan (to date, it has seen 8,000,280 infections and 29,726 deaths; far less than the U.K. which has seen 22,102,983 infections and 175,984 deaths despite having a population with 57.5 million fewer people) but the travel industry has been devastated by this leisure lockdown.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, after Kishida’s comments yesterday, many major Japense travel operators saw sharp rises on the stock market, including Japan Airlines Co (4.5%) and Japan Airport Terminal Co. (6.8%), suggesting that there’s real confidence in the industry getting back to its feet.
The latest developments arrive just two months after officials lifted its ban on business travellers, foreign students and researchers from 106 countries including the U.K., France, Canada and the U.S from entering Japan. As a result, these visitors can now enter Japan provided they can show a negative test within 72 hours of departure and have received a third dose of the vaccine. Previously these visitors were capped at 7,000 per day, but this is currently increased to 10,000 a day.
The Foreign Office still states that “You may apply for a visa to enter Japan for business, study or purposes other than tourism.”
Right now, the foreign nationals who do qualify for travel, including family members of Japanese nationals, or business travellers, have to take a PCR test 72 hours before departure and then face a seven-day quarantine period when inside the country. Ensure you check the latest rulings before you fly.
So while any hope of visiting for its famous cherry blossom season (March to May) has now wilted, there’s every chance you could kicking it in Kyoto sooner than you think.
Featured image by Matteo Colombo / Gettys
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