The government is considering ways to lift its entry ban on foreign tourists with the coming of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed to the summer of 2021, according to government sources.
Japan is expected to set up an exclusive consultation center for foreign tourists who are suspected of having been infected with the new coronavirus and ask tourists to provide information on their health condition via a smartphone app, government sources said.
The government may start these measures as early as next spring, the sources said.
Currently, Japan refuses entry from 159 countries and regions in principle in response to the global spread of the coronavirus, although it has lifted the ban chiefly for business travelers.
If Japan lifts its entry ban on tourists in general, it would mark a turning point for its border control measures that were introduced as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus crisis.
The government has named the whole process of foreign visitors entering, staying in and leaving Japan with the term “journey,” and is discussing specific countermeasures at each stage.
According to the measures, the government plans to ask foreign tourists hoping to visit Japan to download a health check app when they obtain visas at Japanese consulates in their home countries.
The government also plans to oblige foreign tourists to acquire certification that they tested negative for the coronavirus before departure and buy private medical insurance to prepare for possible infection with the virus after entering Japan, the sources said.
If they test negative for the virus in an examination they undertake when entering Japan, the government will allow them to watch Olympic and Paralympic events.
While asking them to report their health condition via the app for 14 days after entry, the government is likely to exempt them from self-quarantine at a hotel and other places.
The government is looking at setting up the exclusive health consultation center for foreign tourists after their entry to Japan to avoid putting too much work on public health centers that deal with infection cases for residents.
There is also a proposal for having public health centers in Tokyo, which will host the games, deal with foreign tourists with a fever and other coronavirus symptoms, the sources said.
The government plans to draw up countermeasures by January next year while monitoring infection situations at home and aboard, aiming to start accepting foreign tourists in April next year on a trial basis.
By maintaining these measures even after the end of the Tokyo Games, the government hopes to help the recovery of tourism demand from abroad, the sources said.
Still, Japan faces many challenges before lifting its entry ban on foreign tourists, with details, such as how many tourists should be allowed to enter, still up in the air.
“We have to monitor future global infection situations closely,” a government source said.
Other issues are likely to include ways to ensure the downloading of the envisaged health check app by visitors from countries that have visa waiver agreements with Japan, and the scope of areas tourists can visit after entering Japan.