Japan plans to set up new testing centers for the novel coronavirus outside three major airports in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as in central parts of the cities, as the country prepares to relax its travel restrictions, a government official said Thursday.
The facilities, intended mainly to test people entering the nation from abroad, are to be built near the airports — Haneda and Narita near the capital and Kansai in Osaka Prefecture — as soon as this summer, the official said.
The government has yet to decide whether to use them for those in Japan who may require evidence they are virus-free to travel outside the country.
Airport quarantine stations currently conduct about 1,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per day, with results confirmed in around one or two days.
The planned construction of the facilities will increase the number of PCR tests that can be performed daily to over 4,000, with health authorities also hoping to reduce virus testing times to a few hours using new methods.
The envisioned testing centers in central parts of the two major cities are expected to be able to provide testing for travelers leaving for foreign countries, and the government is considering issuing certificates for those who test negative.
Since February, Japan has been strengthening travel restrictions for inbound visitors as part of its border control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On Monday, another 18 countries including Algeria, Cuba and Iraq were added to the nation’s entry ban list, raising the total number of countries and regions subject to the measure to 129.
Only 1,700 foreign travelers are estimated to have arrived in Japan in May, the fewest for any month on record and a 99.9 percent drop from a year earlier, according to government data.
However, the nation is currently in talks with several countries to mutually ease travel restrictions for businesspeople providing they submit negative test results and an itinerary that details where they plan to go during their stay.
Those countries include Australia and Thailand. Japan may also begin talks with Taiwan and Brunei as early as this month, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.
Travel from Japan to Vietnam partially resumed late last month with charter flights carrying mainly businesspeople.