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The government announced Friday it will begin accepting foreign nationals coming to the country for business trips, study abroad or technical training starting Monday.

The move represents a major policy change for Japan, since it has essentially been prohibiting arrivals by foreign nationals, except for residents re-entering the country, due to the pandemic.

The shift comes as Japan apparently seeks to boost international business exchanges now that the fifth COVID-19 wave has been stamped out and over 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Those arriving in Japan for short business trips will only be required to quarantine for three days if they have received one of the vaccines that Japan has approved — Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.

If they test negative on the third day, they will no longer need to quarantine but will still need to follow their activity plans for the next seven days, which are submitted beforehand to the government. Starting Monday, the government will accept the necessary documents for new arrivals.

Those intending to stay long term, such as international students and technical trainees, will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Officials at Narita Airport notify passengers of their COVID-19 test results in September. | KYODO
Officials at Narita Airport notify passengers of their COVID-19 test results in September. | KYODO

Unvaccinated arrivals or those inoculated with unapproved vaccines will still be required to undergo quarantine for 14 days, either at a designated facility or an accommodation of their choosing, depending on where they are arriving from.

Companies, organizations and schools responsible for those new entries will be required to monitor their activities.

As of Oct. 1, about 370,000 foreign nationals had reportedly not been able to enter Japan, about 70% of which were students or technical interns.

The government has said it will ease entry restrictions step by step while monitoring the pandemic situation in Japan and overseas.

The decision by the government is welcome news for businesses, as lobbying groups have been proposing an easing of restrictions for some time.

Meanwhile, Toshio Nakagawa, the head of the Japan Medical Association, has reportedly requested that the government take a cautious approach to opening up the border, as the infection situation in Japan has finally calmed down recently. He has expressed concern that variants of the virus spreading overseas may be different from what Japan has experienced.

Japan will also relax quarantine measures for returning Japanese and foreign nationals. Currently, vaccinated returnees need to quarantine for 10 days, but it will be reduced to as little as three days, with some exceptions for those returning from certain countries.

The quarantine period used to be 14 days but was shortened to 10 days from October.

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