• Kyodo, JIJI

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Japan will impose an entry ban on foreign travelers from 18 European countries and Iran to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday.

The measures would be the broadest set of border controls that Japan has implemented so far amid the spreading pandemic, which has killed more than 15,000 people worldwide and threatens to trigger a global recession and derail this summer’s Tokyo Games.

Motegi also said Japan will likely extend its suspension of visas issued to Chinese and South Korean nationals past the March 31 deadline because the coronavirus remains a threat.

The European countries are Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the Vatican.

Foreign travelers who have been to any of the 19 countries within 14 days of arriving in Japan will be turned away. The measures will be finalized soon by a government task force chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a government source said.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry raised its travel alert for the 18 European countries and Iran to Level 3, urging citizens to avoid all travel to the designated areas.

“Barring special circumstances, there won’t be any exceptions” to this rule, Motegi told a news conference.

“Coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly, and the number of those infected per 10,000 people is extremely high,” the ministry said of the countries.

It also urged people to make sure they take preventive measures to avoid infections and gather the latest information on the situation in the areas, while bearing in mind the possibility of a further spread of infections and a strengthening of controls on movement.

Japan has already closed its doors to some regions in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Iran, in addition to the whole of Iceland and San Marino, as well as parts of China and South Korea.

Regarding the suspension of visas issued to Chinese and South Korean nationals, Motegi said the measure will remain in place “unless the coronavirus miraculously disappears from the world tomorrow.”

“I don’t imagine that it will, though,” he added.

Japan suspended the visas, including those issued to residents of Hong Kong and Macau, on March 9 and has asked all other travelers from the two Asian countries to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

The decision has dealt a big blow to the economy, which is reliant on tourists from Japan’s closest neighbors. It also drew a strong backlash from South Korea, which called the measures “unscientific” and “unfair” and quickly retaliated with similar steps.

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