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Border restrictions imposed on non-Japanese residents to stop the spread of COVID-19 were seen as discriminatory by many, but they’re not likely to prevent travel here in the future, writes Rochelle Kopp. Still, given the uproar from many after discovering through the pandemic just how limited their rights are here when compared to their Japanese neighbors, the events of 2020 are not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

In a separate piece, Kopp also takes a look at those stuck on the outside due to the country’s border policies, including two stories that show just how complicated the situation can get.

Narita Airport, seen here in July, was a hive of activity before the pandemic hit. To stop the spread of COVID-19, Japan's government closed the borders to everyone but Japanese citizens, causing difficulties for many non-Japanese residents. | AKIO KON / BLOOMBERG
Narita Airport, seen here in July, was a hive of activity before the pandemic hit. To stop the spread of COVID-19, Japan’s government closed the borders to everyone but Japanese citizens, causing difficulties for many non-Japanese residents. | AKIO KON / BLOOMBERG

Despite those strict policies, Japan’s lax enforcement of rules stopping returning travelers using public transportation from airports is turning into a vulnerability in its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 — a problem that could intensify as the nation expects a surge in new arrivals from abroad toward the end of the year, writes Tomohiro Osaki.

Under the current policy, all travelers from abroad, Japanese or foreign, are asked not to use public transportation for the entirety of their two-week quarantine period, including immediately after arrival, due to the risk of spreading the virus. But reports have emerged that some travelers have been spotted ignoring this request when leaving airports, relying on trains and buses instead to get back home or visit nearby hotels for the two-week quarantine.

This particularly bodes ill for Japan as it braces for a busy year-end holiday season likely to see the mass return of Japanese nationals. The country is currently fighting a growing third wave of coronavirus cases, with more and more medical workers warning that care systems in the nation are in peril, Jiji reports.

As front-line medical workers are pushed to their limits in Hokkaido and Osaka Prefecture, both are asking the central government to send nurses from the Self-Defense Forces to help alleviate the health care worker shortage, according to Kyodo.

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