Japan is set to expand its travel ban on foreign residents arriving from Bangladesh and the Maldives, where a so-called double-mutant virus, known as B.1.617, is feared to be rampant.

Starting Thursday, the government will bar entry to all foreign nationals who were in Bangladesh or the Maldives in the preceding 14 days, including people with a valid residence status, the government said Tuesday. Foreign residents who have left before the latest entry ban is in place will be able to return even after Thursday.

The government imposed the same measures last week on travelers from India, Pakistan and Nepal in response to an explosive growth in coronavirus infections in the region. Foreign nationals will be granted permission to enter Japan only in emergencies or due to exceptional circumstances.

Under the revised travel ban, re-entry is limited to Japanese citizens returning from those countries, although citizens will be placed under stricter surveillance during their 14-day quarantine period.

Travelers from those countries who are granted permission to enter will be required to self-isolate at designated facilities for the first six days after arrival and will be tested for COVID-19 on the third and sixth day of their quarantine. The extended surveillance period and additional testing will also apply to people who have been in Sri Lanka and will take effect Friday.

On Friday, Greece and Jordan will be added to the list of regions covered by more stringent quarantine measures, which require travelers to stay for the first three days of the quarantine period in designated facilities and get tested for COVID-19 on the third day.

The protocol already applies to more than 30 countries and regions including Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland, which have confirmed new coronavirus mutations, including the B.1.617 variant.

Only those whose test results come back negative after the specified self-isolation period will be allowed to relocate to other facilities of their choice or return home for the remainder of the quarantine.

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.

Japan began tightening quarantine measures for the coronavirus, including stricter surveillance and additional testing, after the B.1.617 variant, which was first detected in India and is feared to be more transmissible than the original strain, was found at domestic airports. So far, Japan has confirmed at least 70 cases of the variant, mainly at airports.

The B.1.617 mutation has raised fears that it could prove more resistant to some of the existing vaccines. However, a recent study has shown the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are effective against the variant.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.