• AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, Bloomberg


Japan will request that people arriving from South Korea and China be quarantined for two weeks at designated facilities in Japan to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

“We will strengthen immigration quarantines on people from the two countries,” Abe told a Cabinet-level task force meeting on the virus.

“We will ask them to stay in designated areas for two weeks and not to use public transport in the country.”

The measure will take effect at 12:00 a.m. on March 9 and last through March 31, he said.

The government is calling for tourists from China, where the virus emerged and South Korea, which has been hard hit by the outbreak, to put off travel to Japan and will cancel visas for travelers from the two countries, Abe said.

“In order to reduce the amount of in-bound travel from China and South Korea, we will limit arrival destinations for aircraft from the two countries to Narita and Kansai airports,” he said.

The visa suspensions will effectively ban all Chinese nationals from entering Japan.

“We will suspend transport of passengers by ship and cancel temporary and multiple-entry visas that have already been issued,” Abe said.

Flights from China and South Korea will be able to land only in Narita Airport near Tokyo and Osaka’s Kansai Airport, he said. Abe also said that bans on entering Japan will be expanded to foreign nationals who have been in any part of South Korea or Iran.

More than 95,000 people have been infected and over 3,200 have died worldwide from COVID-19, which has now reached some 80 countries and territories.

Japan’s government has been criticized for responding slowly and for its handling of a cruise ship where more than 700 people contracted the virus despite a quarantine.

Over 300 people have been infected domestically and six deaths have been linked to the outbreak, along with six from the cruise ship.

In recent days the government has stepped up measures to contain the virus and warned that the coming two to three weeks will be crucial for halting its spread, raising questions about whether the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be canceled.

Schools across the country have been closed and events canceled, with everything from football matches and sumo bouts to concerts affected.

Other countries have also taken measures to block or limit arrivals from China and nations suffering a large number of cases including South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Japan had already banned the entry of people with recent travel to several centers of the outbreak, including two provinces in China and two parts of South Korea.

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