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Worries are spreading among Japanese nationals living abroad after Japan tightened its border controls amid fears over the omicron coronavirus variant.

“I was worried that all international flights would be suspended,” said a woman living in the suburbs of New Delhi, whose son, a third-grade junior high school student, plans to return home this month to prepare for a senior high school entrance exam.

“My son looked anxious, saying, ‘What will happen about the exam if I can’t return to Japan?'” the woman said.

“(Japanese) students preparing for exams all around the world must have had a heart-stopping experience,” she said, noting that another family she knows is also planning to return to Japan temporarily to apply for an exam.

On Monday, the government requested that airlines stop accepting new bookings for passenger flights bound for Japan this month. But the request was withdrawn on Thursday as criticism grew that the measure would make it difficult for Japanese nationals to return from abroad.

A 40-year-old expatriate worker in Seoul, who is living away from his family in Japan, gave up returning home at the end of the year and canceled his flight.

“I planned to stay in Japan for about a week and celebrate the birthday of a family member together. But it became meaningless, as a six-day quarantine is required (upon arrival),” he said.

“I think it’s fair to suspend reservations until it’s confirmed whether the variant is weakening or not,” another expatriate worker in New Delhi said. “I have a bad impression about a leader who retracts remarks quickly.”

“I have an uncomfortable feeling about the mood of even refusing the return of Japanese nationals living abroad,” an expatriate worker in Seoul said.

Yoshihisa Yamanaka, a 58-year-old Japanese living in Bangkok who runs his own company, said he already booked a flight to return home during the year-end and New Year holidays.

“I’ve already made the booking, but people who are going to do so from now are confused by the government’s policy changing several times. I want a swift disclosure of information,” Yamanaka said.

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