Japan to reopen to all long-stay foreigners
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Japan to reopen to all long-stay foreigners

Resuming international travel 'indispensable', says new PM Suga

People stand at a near-empty observation deck at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on June 28. (Bloomberg Photo)
People stand at a near-empty observation deck at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on June 28. (Bloomberg Photo)

TOKYO: Japan will reopen its borders for all foreign visitors with permits to stay in the country for some time, including students but excluding tourists, from October, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday.

The announcement marked a major easing of entry restrictions imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“To revitalise the economy, it is indispensable to resume international travel,” Suga told a government task force on coronavirus response.

The country will take the measure as the number of new virus cases has been trending downward in recent weeks and testing capacity at airports has been boosted.

The relaxation roughly coincides with the start of the fall semester at Japanese universities and comes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were supposed to be held this summer but have been postponed to next year due to the global pandemic.

Economic revitalisation minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the response to the coronavirus, said at the outset of the panel’s meeting that the government wanted to add students to those being allowed entry.

The government is considering limiting the entry of foreigners to about 1,000 each day, with increased virus testing capacity at airports to accommodate them, according to Japanese officials.

Japan currently imposes an entry ban on 159 countries and regions. Foreigners who have been to any of the places within 14 days of their arrival are being turned away, with some exceptions.

The government has started gradually rolling back its travel restrictions. Foreigners with resident status in Japan who had traveled outside the country have been allowed re-entry from September.

Expatriates and other long-term residents have already been allowed to come from some Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand. Foreign students on government grants can also enter the country.

Japan has seen more than 80,000 coronavirus infections with over 1,500 deaths, significantly less than hard-hit countries such as the United States, which is nearing 7 million infections.

Japan earlier on Friday added Singapore and Brunei the list of countries from which newly arriving expats and other long-term residents will be allowed to travel, starting next Wednesday for Singapore and Oct 8 for Brunei.

Those eligible to travel will be allowed in on condition they self-isolate for 14-days after entering the respective countries to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Japan already allows people on short-term business trips from Singapore to enter the country without the need to self-isolate, on condition they take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests, present an itinerary of their stay and take other steps to protect themselves and others from the virus.

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