Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday that Japan will allow new entries of foreign nationals who are entering the nation for reasons other than tourism, such as foreign students and business travelers, starting March as part of an exit strategy of the sixth wave.

"We are gradually walking toward the exit of the sixth wave," Kishida said in a news conference. "We need to start preparing for the next phase, in stages."

The decision comes following growing calls from universities, business leaders and even members of the ruling party to ease entry restrictions, and concern over the economic and reputational costs of banning entry.