Japan will ease its entry restrictions for non-tourist arrivals and increase the daily entry cap in March, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday, amid calls from business groups and student representatives for “a science-based entry policy.”
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.
Kishida said that the government has decided to gradually relax entry restrictions, adding that it would be “unrealistic to ease the measures all at once,” local media Kyodo News reported.
“We will continue to consider how the measures should be by taking into account the infection situations at home and abroad, border control measures taken by other nations, and progress in the rollout of vaccine boosters (in Japan),” he told reporters.
Japan will reopen its borders to non-tourist arrivals, including foreign nationals, beginning March 1, with the daily entry cap increased to 5,000 from the current 3,500.
Travelers who have completed their third vaccination shots, and arriving from countries where the outbreak is under control may be exempted from quarantine, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s statement.
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.
A Japanese government official told reporters on Friday that there was no estimate on how long it would take to let in all the waiting foreign nationals.
Marcus Schuermann, delegate of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, said while the relaxation of border measures is a “positive development,” a roadmap on how people will be allowed into the country is still lacking.
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.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) issued a joint statement with other organizations on Feb. 3, urging the government to adopt a science-based entry policy that permits vaccinated travelers to enter the country.
“Japan’s ban on entry by business and student travelers goes considerably beyond the steps its major partners have taken and has imposed real and increasing economic and human costs,” they stated.
The World Health Organization warned last year that blanket travel bans would only pose a “heavy burden” on livelihoods, rather than stopping the spread of the virus.
Reuters contributed to this report.