National

Japan raises travel advisory and plans entry bans for 17 more territories

Kyodo

Japan on Tuesday raised its travel advisory for Palestine and 16 countries, including Nepal, Kenya and Venezuela, warning against visiting them amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the areas were now at Level 3, bringing the total number of countries and regions at the second-highest level on the Foreign Ministry's four-point scale for infectious diseases to 146.

The other newly added areas are Botswana, the Comoros, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Namibia, Paraguay, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname and Uzbekistan.

They are expected to be added to a list of countries and regions subject to an entry ban for foreign travelers after discussion by the National Security Council.

"We are seeing a resurgence of infections in the United States, and it is continuing to spread in South America and Africa," Motegi told a news conference.

International travel to and from Japan has slowed to a trickle due to border controls imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The numbers of foreign visitors and outbound Japanese nationals have both plunged more than 99 percent in recent months compared with a year earlier.

The United States, China and all of Europe are among the 129 countries and regions already covered by the entry ban, which applies to foreign nationals who have been to any of the areas within two weeks of arriving in Japan.

At the same time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is looking to soften the economic blow of COVID-19 by partially reopening borders to parts of the world that have the pandemic under control.

Japan is already in talks with Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam to resume travel for businesspeople with extra steps to prevent the spread of infection including mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato told a press conference Tuesday that testing capacity for travelers arriving in Japan will be expanded to 10,000 per day to prepare for the easing of border controls, though it will take at least until September to hit that target.

The number of tests available at quarantine stations across the country will be increased from the current 2,300 to 4,000, while the ability to carry out another 6,000 tests will be put in place at Haneda, Narita and Kansai international airports.

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