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Monday, May 2, 2022

Japan’s Continued COVID-19 Border Restrictions

Above, nighttime shoppers in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The pandemic is easing off in much of the world and nations have been easing restrictions accordingly and allowing foreign tourists to enter.

Except Japan.

People are wondering when Japan is going to open its borders. Last month, the Japanese government said they have "no plans" to reopen. It is speculated that the country will reopen during the last half of the year.

What's behind this?

The Diplomat has an extensive article on what's behind Japan's strict border closure.

They begin it with:

On April 13 Japan announced that family members of foreign residents in Japan will be permitted to apply for short-term visits as the government gradually eases its COVID-19 border restrictions. The welcomed decision comes after the government began allowing business travelers and some international students to enter in time for the spring school semester. No definite date has been set for the resumption of international tourism, which has been suspended since the start of the pandemic.

Japan’s rigid COVID-19 border restrictions have been criticized as “isolationist” and “xenophobic” due to the differential treatment of Japanese nationals and foreign non-residents. Japan has adopted a cautious approach to loosening restrictions and is known to shut the border to new arrivals in response to the spread of variants. In December, after a brief two-week window allowing business travelers and international students to enter Japan, the government reimposed the entry ban on new foreign arrivals until “more is known about the Omicron variant.”

Japan’s pandemic-hit economy is at risk of shrinking again due to the spread of Omicron and rising food and fuel prices, which are hampering consumer spending. Japan’s record low yen would encourage inbound tourism and play a considerable role stabilizing the currency and creating jobs. But the border closures prevent Japan from benefiting from the weak yen.

On April 11, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said an appropriate decision on restarting tourism will be determined “based on the state of infections and the movements of other countries.”

Two and half years on and Japan remains an outlier among industrialized G-7 nations, which have re-opened for tourists and eliminated quarantines. The World Health Organization’s emergency committee recommended member states eliminate or ease travel bans imposed after the spread of Omicron, calling such policies “incomprehensible.”

To read more, go here

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