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The number of visitors to Japan in January to June dived 99.4% from a year earlier to 96,300, the fewest ever for the first half, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization’s estimate released Wednesday.

In January, the number of foreign visitors recovered to 46,500 thanks to the gradual easing of Japan’s entry restrictions on the back of decreasing new coronavirus cases.

But the government tightened border controls again due to the spread of, among others, the highly infectious delta variant of the virus.

From February, monthly visitor numbers remained at around 10,000.

The decision to bar spectators from the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics dashed expectations that foreign tourists would come back to Japan in line with the Games.

Although vaccine rollouts overseas are expected to shore up the number of visitors to the country, the domestic tourism industry has been hit too hard by the prolonged coronavirus crisis to recover easily.

“We’ll consider ways to help businesses survive and protect jobs (in the industry),” Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Koichi Wada said.

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