Japan lifts entry ban for Thailand, with conditions

Japan lifts entry ban for Thailand, with conditions

Nine countries win clearance but visa restrictions remain and will limit most tourism

Travellers study flight information at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Friday. (Reuters Photo)
Travellers study flight information at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Friday. (Reuters Photo)

TOKYO: Japan will lift its entry ban on foreign travellers from Thailand and eight other countries starting on Sunday, as it gradually eases Covid-19 travel restrictions in a bid to revive its battered economy.

China, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam will also be taken off the entry ban list, as all of them have largely brought the pandemic under control, officials in Tokyo said on Friday.

However, the country continues to suspend visa waiver agreements with other countries and limit the issuance of new visas, meaning that in most cases tourists will still not be able to visit.

The decision, made at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus response task force presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was announced after the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day lowered its travel advisories for the countries and regions from Level 3 to Level 2.

Suga said Japan would ease its requirement for Japanese nationals and foreign residents returning from abroad to undergo a 14-day quarantine period, also from Sunday, a move aimed at facilitating business trips.

To be eligible for the exemption, returning travellers will need to limit their overseas trips to within seven days, and for the first 14 days upon their return refrain from using public transport. As well, they must save their smartphone GPS data to aid in contact tracing, and submit an itinerary detailing their plans during that time.

It is the first time Japan has lifted its entry ban on any country or region since it began putting parts of China including Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected, on the list in early February.

Meanwhile, Myanmar and Jordan will be added to the list, bringing the total number of countries and regions covered by the entry ban to 152. Foreigners without residential status who have recently been to any of these places will in principle be turned away, with some exceptions for humanitarian reasons.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced the lowering of the travel advisories in a briefing on Friday, requesting citizens avoid non-essential trips to these areas, whereas the ministry had previously warned against all travel there.

Motegi said Japan and Vietnam have also agreed to restart reciprocal business travel from Sunday.

With the measure, travellers will no longer need to observe a 14-day quarantine upon arrival if they test negative for the coronavirus and turn in itineraries among other preventive measures.

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