In response to the growing number of COVID-19 infections worldwide, Japan is expanding its entry ban to visitors from 18 nations as part of steps aimed at curtailing the spread of the novel coronavirus, immigration authorities announced Monday.

The countries set to be included to the entry ban list are: Guyana, Cuba, Guatemala, Grenada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Algeria, Eswatini, Cameroon, Senegal, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Iraq, Lebanon and Georgia.

With the addition, the travel ban will cover 129 countries. Foreign nationals who have stayed in these countries within 14 days prior to their application for landing will be denied entry to Japan.

The expansion will take effect on Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry also announced that the suspension of visas issued outside Japan will be extended until the end of July.

Under the regulation, exemptions will be given to residents of Japan who left the country by June 30 and are either permanent residents, long-term resident visa holders, or spouses or children of a permanent resident or a Japanese national with such a status.

People with other visa statuses and those who are planning to leave Japan after July 1 will be required to meet strict conditions for re-entry. Special permission may be granted on humanitarian grounds, for instance, in the case of a death of a relative or for medical emergencies.

Japan’s strict entry rules have been met with strong criticism from the expatriate community and foreign business lobby groups, as the restrictions have not only affected tourists but also legal residents and businesses operating in the country.

In contrast to Japan’s approach, the European Union has listed Japan among about a dozen countries under consideration for lifting travel restrictions this week. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, has not yet confirmed whether Japan will be granted an exemption from the ban. But if it is, easing the restrictions would mean Japanese nationals could enter EU countries regardless of their visa status, albeit some EU member states may ask travelers to undergo quarantine.

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