Japan lifted its entry ban on foreign nationals on Tuesday and raised the maximum daily number of entrants to 5,000, but foreign tourists will still be barred from entering the country.
The Japanese government has been suspending new arrivals of foreign visitors since Nov. 30, 2021, to contain the spread of the Omicron variant, adopting the strictest border control measures among the Group of Seven developed economies nations.
The Immigration Services Agency of Japan claimed that more than 400,000 people eligible for visas had been denied entry into the country as of Jan. 4. Of those, about 152,900 are students pursuing study in Japan, Kyodo News reported.
Business groups and student representatives had previously called on the government to lift the entry ban on foreign nationals, saying that such restrictions harmed efforts to revive the economy and prevented international students from studying in Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday that the government will gradually increase international traffic by reviewing “infection situations in Japan and abroad, as well as the demand of Japanese nationals returning.”
According to the Foreign Ministry’s statement, foreign nationals will now be allowed to enter the country, “except for those entering Japan for tourism [purposes].”
The daily entry cap will also be increased to 5,000 from the current 3,500, the ministry added.
The ministry stated that all entrants will be subject to a seven-day home quarantine, but the quarantine requirement may be lifted if the third-day test result comes out negative.
Travelers who have completed their third vaccination shots, and arriving from countries where the outbreak is under control, may be exempted from quarantine, it added.
Japan reported 65,403 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to government data.
Tokyo’s hospital bed occupancy rate for infected patients rose to 50.7 percent on Feb. 1. Officials previously said that an increase to 50 percent would warrant escalation to a full state of emergency, but the central government remains wary about declaring an emergency due to the low number of severely ill patients.
Under a quasi-state of emergency, governors are allowed to shorten business hours and limit the serving of alcohol in the prefectures.