Good news for people planning to travel or return to Japan: The government is expected to shorten the period of self-isolation upon arrival for vaccinated people from 14 to 10 days — the first time the nation will have eased quarantine measures since the beginning of the year.

The revised quarantine measures, likely to be announced Thursday, will only apply to people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved in Japan — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The revision is expected to take effect as early as the end of September.

Government officials say the planned change is based on international standards and recommendations from public health experts. Many countries, including the U.K. and the Philippines, have implemented similar policies even for travelers from countries where the risk of coronavirus transmission is viewed as high.

The move follows calls from Japan’s top business lobby, which urged the government to relax some of its entry restrictions as more people get vaccinated worldwide.

The Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, submitted a set of COVID-19 proposals to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga earlier this week, which included shortening the self-isolation period to help resume business travel.

Japanese and foreign businesses have long complained about the nation’s strict entry restrictions and its mandatory 14-day quarantine period. The measures affect all entries regardless of whether travelers have been inoculated or not, as well as those who have developed immunity against COVID-19 after recovering from the disease.

The change has been long awaited by international business groups. Christopher LaFleur, special adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, said that reopening Japan’s borders to business travel was in line with a science-based approach to preserving public health.

“Many of Japan’s top economic partners permit vaccinated travelers from overseas to enter without quarantine, and require a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated travelers rather than the 14 days currently mandated by Japan,” he said ahead of the announcement. “Restarting business travel is essential for the recovery of the Japanese and global economies from the damage of the pandemic.”

Japan has drawn flak for its entry restrictions, which are viewed as one of the strictest among members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

At present, all people traveling to Japan need to get tested twice — within 72 hours before their departure and on arrival — before they go into the mandatory self-isolation period.

Depending on where they come from and the pandemic situation there, some arrivals are required to stay in government-designated facilities for a certain period of time ー ranging from three to 10 days ー and undergo additional COVID-19 tests as part of their two-week quarantine. Others can isolate at home or an accommodation of their choosing.

At present, only Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with a valid residence status are allowed to enter Japan. Exceptions are made only for those seeking entry under exceptional circumstances.

However, Japan has banned foreign nationals with residence status from entering Japan if they are traveling from certain regions and nations such as India and many of its neighboring countries, which had been struggling to contain the virus.

Information from Kyodo added

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