• Jiji, kyodo

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A total of 151 Japanese nationals will return home from Poland on a flight chartered by the Polish government, the Polish Embassy in Japan said Wednesday.

The flight will carry back Polish nationals who have been unable to leave Japan because direct flights between the two countries were suspended to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the embassy said.

The Japanese government on Tuesday raised its travel alert for Poland to Level 3, suggesting citizens should avoid traveling there.

Meanwhile, Japan said Wednesday it will deny entry to foreign nationals traveling from a total of 73 countries and regions, or about a third of the world, expanding its ban to include the Americas and Africa to address the continued rise in global coronavirus infections.

Speaking at a meeting of a government task force on the country's coronavirus response, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the new ban will be imposed from Friday and remain effective until the end of the month.

Foreign nationals who have been in those parts of the world within 14 days of their arrival in Japan will be refused entry.

Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Taiwan, Morocco and the United States are among the 49 newly added countries and regions, along with most of Europe and many countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Japan will also broaden its ban to the whole of China and South Korea from selected areas of its two Asian neighbors.

The government will ask Japanese nationals returning from the listed countries to undergo virus tests, while all incoming travelers will be requested to self-quarantine and refrain from using public transportation for 14 days, Abe said.

Foreigners from European countries such as France and Italy that are under lockdowns and Iran have already been barred from entering Japan.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to travel bans and restrictions globally, slowing economic activity. The total number of infections worldwide has topped 860,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Japan has reported over 2,900, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that had been under quarantine.

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