National

Japan to expand entry ban to include U.S., China and most of Europe

Kyodo, Jiji

Japan is planning to place an entry ban on foreign nationals who have recently been to the United States, China, South Korea and most of Europe in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, government sources said Monday.

The measure would apply to foreign nationals who have been to any of the listed regions within 14 days of arriving in Japan.

All Japanese returnees and foreign nationals who have traveled outside the banned areas will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and watch for symptoms of COVID-19, according to the sources.

The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, is set to raise its travel advisory for the United States, China, South Korea and most of Europe, including Britain, to Level 3, warning Japanese citizens to “avoid all travel” to those countries, according to the sources.

Some areas of China and South Korea such as Hubei Province and Daegu as well as more than 20 European countries had already been subject to an entry ban imposed by Japan.

Coronavirus cases have surged in the United States, which has overtaken Italy and China to become the country worst-hit by the pandemic that has killed more than 33,000 globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University of the United States.

Other parts of Europe such as Spain and Germany have also been heavily impacted.

Japan had seen comparatively few cases but has recently experienced a spike in positive test results in Tokyo, leading to a rush to prevent new infections from being imported.

As of Sunday, the number of infections in Japan stood at 2,603 including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined for two weeks near Tokyo, with 66 deaths.

As more countries close their doors to shield themselves from the virus spread, Japanese nationals living or traveling overseas are increasingly having difficulty returning home.

A group of Japanese nationals left Peru on a chartered flight Sunday after they were stranded in the country following Lima’s decision to close borders and ground international flights earlier this month.

The measure was enforced on March 17, and will continue through April 12, according to the Peruvian government.

A total of 121 people, mostly Japanese nationals, boarded the flight arranged by a local Peruvian travel agency with the support of the Japanese Embassy in Lima. Some 260 were initially stuck in the country, it said.

Another 29 Japanese nationals had left the country Saturday aboard a flight chartered by the Taiwanese delegation in Peru.

The Sunday flight left Cusco, southern Peru, and stopped in Lima to pick up stranded nationals before heading to Mexico City, according to the embassy.

Corporate Japan also appears to be in a crisis mode.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has said that the government plans to ask private companies to increase the production of ventilators to prepare for a possible escalation of the new coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re looking into whether production can be raised,” Nishimura said during a television program aired Sunday. “We hope to quickly make a decision and start ramping up production.”

Nishimura did not specify to which company the government plans to make the output hike request.

The move came amid growing concerns about possible shortages of ventilators, which are needed for treating patients with severe pneumonia caused by the virus.

Among similar efforts, U.S. President Donald Trump recently ordered major automaker General Motors Co. to produce ventilators based on the defense production law, which allows the government to urge private companies to cooperate in producing or procuring goods.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told a recent news conference that 3,000 ventilators have been secured in Japan and that the government is ready to take a budgetary measure to increase stockpiles.

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