The government will allow travel to Japan by long-term expatriates and other foreign residents who have been overseas for a long period, as well as by those on short business trips to and from the country, under a basic plan compiled Thursday to ease its border controls in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
In another step toward easing restrictions, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday that Japan has agreed with Vietnam to restart business trips between the two countries by as early as the end of this month.
Japan plans to promote similar negotiations with Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but it will likely ease travel restrictions on Thailand and Vietnam before Australia and New Zealand, since the latter two countries are prioritizing the resumption of travel across the Tasman Sea.
According to the basic plan compiled Thursday by the government’s coronavirus response task force, people taking overseas business trips of up to two weeks will be required to take polymerase chain reaction tests for possible coronavirus infection right before departure and after arrival, submit schedules of their activities and agree to retain GPS data on their smartphones to aid in contact tracing.
After coming to Japan, they will be banned from using public transport, and their travel will be limited in principle to between their workplaces and the facilities where they are staying.
Expatriates staying abroad for a long period, as well as foreign technical trainees, will be subject to the same border control measures as those for Japanese nationals returning from abroad. These travelers will be asked to stay at their homes or designated facilities for two weeks after entering Japan.
For the time being, arrival in Japan will be limited to Tokyo International Airport at Haneda, Narita International Airport near Tokyo and Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture for people entering the country after short and long stays abroad.
Foreign students will have to wait longer before they can enter Japan, followed by tourists.
The move would be the first step in Japan’s resumption of international travel. Speaking at a meeting of the government task force on the coronavirus response Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the four countries were chosen because they have the coronavirus under control, and that travel restrictions on other parts of the world will be eased later as the situation improves.
“We will continue with border measures to prevent imported cases of the novel coronavirus,” he said. “At the same time, we need to resume international travel, partially and gradually, in order to put the economy on a recovery track.”
The four countries are expected to place similar requirements on Japanese businesspeople when mutual travel resumes, though the details are still under negotiation.
Abe instructed the health ministry and other relevant government organizations to set up testing centers to administer PCR tests to people who are departing the country.
Japan currently has an entry ban in place for 111 countries and regions including the United States, much of Asia including China and South Korea, and the whole of Europe. Barring special circumstances, foreign travelers who have been to these areas within 14 days of arriving in Japan are being turned away.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.