Foreign residents were left scratching their heads and wondering whether the country was expanding its most rigorous travel bans after the government announced fresh travel restrictions on seven countries late Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry and immigration officials announced that Japan will place travel restrictions on travelers from Thailand and six other countries following an emergency ministerial meeting Wednesday, but details about the changes didn’t appear on the Foreign or Justice ministries’ website until Thursday afternoon.
The travel restrictions were revised just a day after Japan decided to ban entry of all foreign nationals from several countries, even if they have a valid residency status. The day before, Sri Lanka was added to the list of countries covered by the nation’s more stringent quarantine protocols.
Therefore, the announcement about the revision led to a misunderstanding among Japan’s foreign residents, with some believing that the country is expanding its most rigorous travel bans and getting set to close its borders to all foreign nationals looking to enter.
The government said in a statement that all foreign nationals who have recently traveled to Thailand and six other countries will not be allowed to enter Japan as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, effective Friday. But authorities later clarified the news, stressing that people with valid residency statuses who have traveled to the newly listed countries will be allowed to re-enter.
The newly announced measures will also apply to travelers from Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Saint Lucia, East Timor and Mongolia. With the addition, the number of countries and regions covered by Japan’s travel restrictions will rise to 159. Japan has revised its travel bans several times throughout the pandemic by adding and removing some countries depending on the COVID-19 situation there. But the nation’s borders have remained closed to tourists throughout the pandemic.
All new arrivals who have been to any of those seven countries within 14 days of arrival will not be allowed to enter Japan. Exceptions will be made for spouses and children of Japanese nationals and permanent residents, as well as people seeking entry in emergencies or due to other special circumstances.
The decision to expand the travel restriction list comes amid calls from lawmakers to tighten border control measures after Japan failed to prevent the arrival of new and more transmissible variants and amid concerns about shortcomings in the nation’s quarantine protocols.
Confusingly, the most rigorous measures will also apply to Sri Lanka, with only Japanese nationals being exempted from the entry ban. The country was earlier this week added to the list of destinations deemed to pose a high risk due to the spread in the South Asian country of the highly contagious B.1.617 variant, which was first detected in India and is feared to be rampant in the region.
The government has banned all foreign nationals, even those with valid residency status, from India as well as neighboring Pakistan and Nepal from entering the country. It added Bangladesh and the Maldives to that list earlier this week and Sri Lanka is the latest addition.
At present, all people arriving in Japan are required to get tested prior to their arrival and need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Japanese nationals returning from the 159 countries covered by the government’s entry restrictions will also be required to submit proof they had tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their departure for Japan, will be tested once again upon arrival and will need to self-isolate for 14 days. However, those who visited Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and the Maldives will also be covered by more rigorous quarantine protocols. Those returnees are now required to quarantine for six days at a designated facility and take multiple tests on the third and sixth day after entering Japan. Only those who test negative will be allowed to return home or relocate to a facility of their choice for the remainder of the 14-day quarantine period.
The Immigration Services Agency, which is affiliated with the Justice Ministry, warned in a note on its website against all travel and urged “to cancel any short-term travel” to countries affected by the pandemic and especially those that have confirmed infections with new coronavirus variants.
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