A significant uptick in COVID-19 cases across Japan has triggered a flurry of advisories worldwide about travel to the country, with at least nine governments calling on their citizens to refrain from nonessential visits or to exercise increased caution during trips.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirmed Friday that the nine countries — Israel, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Samoa, Tonga, Micronesia, Kiribati, Bhutan and South Korea — had issued warnings against travel to Japan, one of the nations hit hardest by the new coronavirus epidemic.
On its official website, the Samoan government strongly recommends that all persons intending to travel to China and any country affected by the coronavirus “postpone their travel arrangements unless necessary.” Samoa also warned that Japanese passport-holders must self-quarantine for at least 14 days at their point of departure, and must undergo medical clearance within three days prior to their trip to Samoa.
Thai media outlets have widely reported that the country’s Public Health Ministry is advising Thais planning to visit Japan to postpone their trips. The Thai government said the coronavirus outbreaks in Japan and Singapore had reached “the third stage” in which a growing number of infected residents have no record of contact with Chinese people or any history of traveling to China, where the virus is thought to have originated.
Israel’s safety measures follow reports that two Israelis were found to have contracted the virus after they were evacuated from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama Port, where they had spent around two weeks under quarantine.
About 10 Israelis were aboard the ship. Israel was one of about a dozen countries that arranged chartered flights to bring their citizens home last week, in an emergency measure aimed at protecting the evacuees from the virus.
All the evacuees had boarded the charter planes on condition that they tested negative for COVID-19. But at least 14 Americans, six Australians, four U.K. nationals and two Israelis have tested positive so far after returning home from Japan.
On Sunday, after the viral infections were confirmed in the evacuees from the Diamond Princess, Israel announced its entry ban for Japanese travelers and residents of Japan who had visited Japan or South Korea 14 days prior to their arrival, effective from Monday.
Micronesia has also barred direct entry for people from Japan.
Until last weekend, the Diamond Princess remained the biggest COVID-19 cluster outside of China with nearly 700 people found to have developed symptoms of COVID-19 or been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes the disease.
On Monday, the total number of 763 cases reported in South Korea, which is struggling to contain a snowballing coronavirus outbreak of its own, surpassed that of the Diamond Princess.
But with 149 cases reported within Japan as of Monday evening the nationwide total including those from the ship was brought to 840, prompting other governments to upgrade their health advisories concerning travel to the nation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has also issued a low-level travel advisory for Japan, warning of “sustained community spread” of the virus across the country through unknown routes of transmission.
In its notice, the CDC suggested older adults and those with chronic medical conditions — who may be at higher risk from severe disease — should discuss their plans with a health care provider and consider postponing nonessential travel. They also warned Americans considering trips to Japan of possible travel delays, quarantine and extremely expensive medical costs if they are suspected to have become infected with the virus.
Australia has also adjusted its advice for Japan. The Australian Government announced Sunday on Twitter that it recommends Australians exercise a high degree of caution in Japan due to an increased risk of sustained local transmission of the new coronavirus.
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