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Despite the COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures no longer being in effect from Monday, strict entry restrictions at airports and ports will continue to be in place, with no indication of when they will be eased.

On Thursday, the government announced it would extend its blanket travel ban on all new entries for foreign nationals — including foreign students, academic researchers and business people using reciprocal business travel programs — reflecting concerns about the spread of new and more contagious coronavirus variants.

The government is planning to allow entry of up to around 2,000 people per day, coordinating with airlines to ensure flights are not oversubscribed.

“We need to make a careful decision based on infection situations both at home and abroad,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a parliamentary committee meeting Thursday.

At present, only Japanese and foreign nationals with a valid residency status are allowed to re-enter the country, while nonresident foreign nationals with “special exceptional circumstances” can be granted permission. Those special cases include medical or other emergencies and exceptional situations such as childbirth or a funeral of a relative.

A staffer at Narita Airport checks whether an app to locate a user's location is properly installed on her smartphone on Thursday. | KYODO
A staffer at Narita Airport checks whether an app to locate a user’s location is properly installed on her smartphone on Thursday. | KYODO

Starting Monday, the government will expand the list of such special circumstances to cover spouses and children of Japanese and foreign residents who have been separated from their families. People whose re-entry permission expired during their stay abroad, foreign health workers intending to work at medical institutions, university professors and instructors, and some people planning to relocate to Japan for work will also be allowed to enter Japan.

However, the government is also planning to include professional athletes and coaches under the special cases exemption later this month on the basis that it is in the public interest, Kyodo News reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, around 100 professional athletes and coaches for baseball and soccer have been unable to enter the country, which has affected several sporting events in Japan. The J. League opened its season in February, while Nippon Professional Baseball is set to begin its season on March 26.

Those who are allowed entry from abroad, including Japanese nationals, are required to:

  • Undergo tests for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their departure for Japan.
  • Submit negative test results upon entry.

Until recently, people who could not get tested before their trip to Japan were allowed entry if they agreed to undergo coronavirus tests twice, on the first and third day after entering the country, but not anymore.

Staffers at Narita Airport check whether an app to locate a user's location is properly installed on people's smartphones on Thursday. | KYODO
Staffers at Narita Airport check whether an app to locate a user’s location is properly installed on people’s smartphones on Thursday. | KYODO

Starting from Friday, all people entering Japan are required to submit proof that they have tested negative, and those who don’t comply, including Japanese nationals, will be denied entry under the recently revised quarantine law.

After they enter Japan, they are required to:

  • Self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Submit a written assurance that they will comply with quarantine protocols, risking fines, naming and shaming, or even having their residency status revoked for noncompliance.
  • Report their health condition and location daily via smartphone apps and comply with checks via video calls — those who do not have smartphones will be required to rent one.

Even if people test negative, they will still be prohibited from using public transportation until after the 14-day self-quarantine period is over.

Special arrangements that had exempted short-term business travelers from quarantine measures will continue to be suspended.

The government will also tighten quarantine restrictions for seven more countries where new virus variants are feared to be spreading, bringing the total number of targeted countries to 24.

Starting from Saturday, people arriving from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Pakistan and Poland will face an additional requirement to stay at a designated facility after arrival, with a retest for the virus being conducted on the third day after entering the country.


March 26 update: On Friday, Japan announced it would expand its stricter quarantine rules, effective Monday, to cover Ukraine and the Philippines, where there have been reported cases of new and more contagious coronavirus variants. People coming from these countries will face an additional requirement to stay at a designated facility after arrival, with a retest for the virus being conducted on the third day after entering the country.

With the planned addition, the policy, which is aimed at curbing the spread of new coronavirus variants into Japan, will apply to 26 countries including Brazil, France, Germany, U.K. and South Africa.

As of March 26, the list of countries covered by stricter quarantine rules where new COVID-19 variants are spreading is as follows:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Britain
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Lebanon
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • South Africa
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates

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