Japan received an estimated 3,800 visitors in July, posting a year-on-year plunge of 99.9 percent for the fourth consecutive month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, government data shows.

With strict border controls in place essentially banning people from 146 countries and regions, there is no telling when tourists will be able to freely return.

Japan received 2,600 visitors in June, 1,663 in May and 2,917 in April, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The July figure, released Friday, marked the 10th consecutive monthly fall since October, when there was a significant drop in Korean visitors due to bilateral friction over the wartime labor issue linked to Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

Visitors from China in July fell to 800 from 1.05 million a year earlier, followed by Vietnam with 600, the United States with 400, and 300 each from South Korea and India. Most of the foreign arrivals during the month were apparently Japan residents.

In the meantime, the number of Japanese departing in July plunged 98.8 percent to about 20,300, down from some 1.66 million a year earlier, but nearly double the 10,666 logged the previous month.

The government has started talks with 16 nations and regions, including Australia and some Southeast Asian countries, on easing travel restrictions for business trips.

Speculation is growing that Japan will soon reopen its borders to non-Japanese residents, allowing those who left during the pandemic to return regardless of why they went abroad.

Citing government sources, NHK said that starting from September, Japan will grant re-entry permission to all foreign nationals with valid visas who temporarily left but have not yet received permission to re-enter.

The Japan Tourism Agency, meanwhile, said it will support its industry to prepare for a revival.

"We'll prepare to be able to welcome visitors from overseas" when it becomes possible for people to travel to Japan again," Atsumi Gamo, commissioner of the agency, said at a news conference.

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