Over the course of the pandemic, there’s been simmering criticism of Japan’s border rules, which have prevented thousands of students and researchers from newly entering the country. But recently the backlash against the restrictions has taken on fresh momentum, with everyone from former vaccine minister Taro Kono to the country’s top business lobby and leading Japan scholars taking aim at the border policy.

In a tacit acknowledgment of the costs of the entry ban, the government has in recent weeks given the green light to some new entries by students — a break from the restrictions that were dramatically reinstated at the end of November due to the emergence of the omicron variant, just weeks after they were eased. In mid-January, 87 students on government scholarships were given the OK, and on Feb. 1, NHK reported that about 400 more students deemed urgent cases or having a high public benefit would be allowed in from the beginning of this month.

Addressing a parliamentary committee on Feb. 4, COVID-19 minister Daishiro Yamagiwa said that the government “will respond flexibly” when it comes to entry restrictions. A change does appear to be in the offing — next week, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s education subcommittee plans to submit a request to the prime minister that the acceptance of new international students be resumed, the Nikkei reported Wednesday.