• Kyodo, AFP-JIJI, Staff Report


Japan will ask travelers from Europe as well as Egypt and Iran to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

The temporary measure from Saturday to the end of April will target all travelers from 38 countries, Abe told a meeting of a government task force on the coronavirus.

During the two-week period, visitors from the targeted countries will be asked not to use public transportation in Japan.

The Foreign Ministry will invalidate visas already issued to people from the 38 countries, also covering the period from Saturday to the end of April.

From Thursday, Japan also strengthened its border controls by imposing an entry ban on people coming from parts of Spain, Switzerland and Italy as well as all of Iceland.

Foreign travelers who have been to the areas within 14 days of arrival in Japan will be refused entry “for the time being,” Abe said without elaborating.

“Given the situation of the spread of infection, we decided we would need to further enhance quarantine for 38 nations, including European countries under the Schengen agreement,” Abe said at the Cabinet-level meeting.

Foreign and Japanese travelers coming from the countries will “be urged to stay at places designated by a quarantine officer for 14 days and to refrain from using public transportation.” There will be no specific enforcement measures.

Countries under the Schengen agreement are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Other countries subject to quarantine are Andorra, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Ireland, Monaco, Romania, San Marino, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

Japan is scrambling to prevent a surge in domestic infections with the Tokyo Olympics roughly four months away. The viral outbreak has led countries around the world to impose travel restrictions, casting a pall over the global economy.

The latest steps mirror those already taken for travelers from China and South Korea, both hit hard by the pandemic.

As the number of cases has topped 200,000 globally, Abe called on Japanese citizens to exercise caution if they plan to go overseas, issuing a Level 1 warning, the lowest, for the rest of the world.

For Iceland and parts of some regions in Italy, Spain and Switzerland, which are subject to the entry ban, Japan has already warned its citizens to avoid all travel by raising the alert to Level 3.

The ban covers the northern Italian regions of Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Fruili-Venezia Giulia and Liguria. Also included are the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Basel-Stadt, along with the Spanish provinces of Madrid and La Rioja as well as Navarre and the Basque Country.

The focus of the outbreak that began in China in December has shifted to Europe, triggering unprecedented steps by the European Union, which promotes the free movement of goods and people. The United States has already restricted travel from the continent.

EU leaders agreed Tuesday to impose a 30-day restriction on nonessential travel to the bloc to limit the spread of the virus. Italy, hit by the largest number of infections after China, has already imposed a nationwide lockdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered people in France to stay at home for up to 15 days.

COVID-19 has infected more than 71,000 people and killed over 3,330 across Europe, the majority in hard-hit Italy, Spain and France.

The World Health Organization called for bold action to be taken against the pandemic on the continent, the outbreak’s new epicenter.

In Japan, the government has called for the scaling back or cancellation of major events, as well as school closures.

Everything from soccer matches and concerts have been affected, while the spring sumo tournament is being held behind closed doors.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has also urged residents to refrain from joining parties at parks during the cherry blossom season.

The Foreign Ministry has detailed its recent steps in English on its website: www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page6e_000199.html.

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