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With the latest extension of the state of emergency, foreign travelers looking to enter Japan will have to wait at least another month, as a total ban on new entries will remain in place through March 7.

Following Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s announcement Tuesday of the extension of the emergency, which now covers 10 prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka, the government also revised quarantine rules for citizens and residents returning from countries that have reported new coronavirus variants believed to be more transmissible than the original strains of SARS-CoV-2. With the most recent changes, set to take effect on Friday, people returning to Japan from Ireland, Israel and parts of Brazil will be covered by stricter quarantine measures.

Under the current policy that bans new arrivals, only citizens and residents with valid statuses are allowed to re-enter the country. The policy may be relaxed prior to March 7 depending on how the situation evolves.

The ban applies to all new visa applicants, including student and dependent visas, as well as business travelers under a program that was introduced last year allowing for travel between Japan and specific countries. Japan has signed such agreements with 11 countries including South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, nations where the spread of the virus is relatively under control.

The restrictions also apply to those who had obtained confirmation they are eligible for new visas. Usually, such confirmation comes in the form of what's called a Certificate of Eligibility.

According to the Foreign Ministry, however, exceptions to the travel ban can be made for people seeking entry in cases of emergency.

An empty shopping area inside Narita Airport. Currently, anyone planning to enter the country is required to get tested for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their return trip and submit a negative test result upon arrival. | BLOOMBERG
An empty shopping area inside Narita Airport. Currently, anyone planning to enter the country is required to get tested for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their return trip and submit a negative test result upon arrival. | BLOOMBERG

Currently, anyone planning to enter the country is required to get tested for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their return trip and submit a negative test result upon arrival. Returnees also have to undergo COVID-19 tests upon entry and quarantine for 14 days.

However, travelers from regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered are also required to self-isolate for three days at facilities designated by the government and get tested again on the third day after arrival. From Friday, people arriving from Ireland, Israel, and Brazil’s Amazonas state will be covered by this requirement, which had already been imposed on travelers from Britain and South Africa.

Those who test negative will be allowed to return home or move to privately booked accommodation for the remainder of the 14-day quarantine period on the condition that they not use public transportation. The only available options for travelers to get home from the airport are private cars, specific train cars and dedicated buses.

Travelers who break quarantine rules may face legal consequences such as having their names disclosed publicly or, in the case of foreign nationals, having their residency status revoked. All people entering the country are required to sign a written agreement to assure they will abide by the regulations.

Additionally, with the passage of a revision to the quarantine law, from Feb. 13 authorities will be able to levy fines on people who break the law. This will allow authorities to place those who refuse to self-isolate under quarantine at designated facilities, and further impose penalties of a one-year prison sentence or a fine of up to ¥1 million, if they do not comply.

The government tightened its travel restrictions in late December following reports of the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, known as B.1.1.7, which was first identified in Britain.

Police officers enter Narita Airport's Terminal 3. Travelers who break quarantine rules may face legal consequences such as having their names disclosed publicly or, in the case of foreign nationals, having their residency status revoked. | BLOOMBERG
Police officers enter Narita Airport’s Terminal 3. Travelers who break quarantine rules may face legal consequences such as having their names disclosed publicly or, in the case of foreign nationals, having their residency status revoked. | BLOOMBERG

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