The government is considering strengthening its border control for travelers from India, which is seeing explosive growth in coronavirus infections, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
Travelers arriving in Japan from India are currently obliged to stay at designated facilities for three days upon their arrival as part of a requested 14-day self-quarantine, as Tokyo has designated India as a country where a coronavirus variant is spreading.
Under the current policy that bans new arrivals, only Japanese nationals and foreign residents with valid statuses are allowed to re-enter the country.
The government is examining new measures such as an extension of the three-day period at designated facilities to six days and a ban on entry from India, after failing to shut out a British variant that triggered a fourth wave of infections in Japan, the sources said.
A similar step is being considered for travelers from Pakistan and Nepal, which border India, the sources said.
In India, a so-called double-mutation virus officially known as B.1.617, feared to be more transmissible than the original strain, is believed to be rampant. The mutation has raised fears that it could prove more resistant to existing vaccines.
On April 26, the government said it had confirmed 21 cases of the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 in Japan, of which 20 were found in airport quarantine and an additional case confirmed among domestic cases.
On May 1, India was added to the list of regions covered by stringent quarantine measures aimed at curbing the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants into Japan after the so-called Indian variant was detected in Japan.
At present, the same quarantine measures involving additional testing for COVID-19 on the third day of arrival apply to 35 countries and regions such as Britain, South Africa and Brazil and four U.S. states, including Florida.
While returnees and people granted permissions to enter from Pakistan have already been covered by the same regulations, people entering Japan from Nepal can self-isolate at home or at facilities of their choice throughout the 14-day quarantine period.
On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry requested Japanese nationals in India to consider returning home temporarily if they can obtain a document certifying a negative result from a coronavirus polymerase chain reaction test from within the 72 hours prior to their departure.
Currently, 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.
As of October last year, some 10,000 Japanese nationals were living in India. Commercial passenger flights are still operating between the two countries.
According to the latest government data, 443 Japanese and foreign nationals who arrived in Japan from India underwent coronavirus tests over the week from March 28. Seven of them tested positive.
The government is considering announcing the possible stricter border control as early as Friday, when it will reach a formal decision on whether to extend Japan's third COVID-19 state of emergency.
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