Less than 24 hours after it was announced, Japan retracted its request for airlines to halt inbound flight bookings Thursday in a rapid reversal of a move that had roiled Japan's citizens and residents abroad and even caught Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his transport minister off guard.

“The request was made as an emergency measure to prevent (the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant), but it caused confusion among" people affected by the decision, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a news conference.

To make it possible for Japanese nationals to return home, “the transport ministry has withdrawn the request to suspend new reservations of flights to Japan and will give close attention to demand among Japanese" who are currently overseas.