• Kyodo

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The number of international passengers using three major airports in Japan during the New Year’s holidays tanked about 97% from a year earlier, immigration authorities said Friday, amid strict border controls due to the pandemic.

The preliminary figure of those traveling through Narita Airport near Tokyo from Dec. 25 to Jan. 3 fell 96.5% to 36,570 from the same period a year earlier, the Tokyo regional bureau of the Immigration Services Agency said.

Of this number, 24,140 or roughly two-thirds were foreign nationals. Among outbound passengers, the largest number of travelers were headed to mainland China at 3,800, followed by 3,400 to the United States and 1,200 to South Korea.

At Haneda Airport in Tokyo, international air passengers totaled 15,910 during the holiday period, down 97%, according to the bureau.

The number plunged 99% to 7,760 at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, the lowest since it opened in 1994, according to the agency’s Osaka regional bureau.

Japan has maintained a ban on entries of foreign tourists, though it recently relaxed rules for business travelers and students from 11 Asian nations, including China and South Korea.

The government initially imposed a temporary ban on new arrivals of foreign nationals coming for purposes such as business or study from Britain. The ban was extended to most of the rest of the world by late December following the discovery of new coronavirus variants.

Foreign residents and Japanese nationals have still been allowed to enter.

Japan is in the middle of a third wave of infections with new cases surpassing 7,800 on Friday, a record high for the fourth consecutive day. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday declared a second state of emergency in the capital and surrounding areas to address the recent resurgence of infections.

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