In the face of harsh criticism as the only Group of Seven member nation still banning legal long-term and permanent residents from returning home, Japan has softened its stance on humanitarian grounds and says it will allow foreign residents to re-enter the country regardless of their visa status.

The entry restriction, which covers 111 countries, including the United States and most countries in Asia and Europe, was introduced as a measure against the novel coronavirus. It has left several hundred non-Japanese residents stranded abroad and prevented others from temporarily leaving the country as they risk being denied re-entry.

The Justice Ministry posted on its website a notice on May 27 saying that permission for landing may be granted “depending on the individual situation if there are special exceptional circumstances, particularly such as when there are circumstances that require humanitarian consideration.”