Japan eases COVID-19 border restrictions – Diplomat
Japan eases COVID-19 border restrictions – Diplomat

Japan eases COVID-19 border restrictions – Diplomat

Three months after closing its borders to foreign visa holders again in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has begun easing restrictions on foreign students, technical interns and short-term business travelers. The government will increase the limit for new arrivals from the current 5,000 to 7,000 every day and will raise the number to 10,000 from 1 April. It is estimated that most of the foreign students waiting to enter Japan – about 400,000 in total – will be able to do so. so before the end of May, as long as the host organization submits an online application and conducts a visa screening.

Newcomers who test negative on the third day of quarantine shall not be quarantined for seven days at a designated facility. Those who have received their third vaccine dose and have entered Japan from an area without an increase in COVID-19 will be exempt from mandatory quarantine.

Japan has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. The current sixth wave, which began at the beginning of the year, led to 18 prefectures, including Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi, imposing an almost state of emergency on 19 January. Although there are signs that infections are starting to decline, the emergence of a new sub-variant of Omicron may slow the country’s already cautious plans to reopen.

Despite a global tendency to relax access restrictions amid progress in vaccination admission, the advent of Omicron prompted the Japanese government to tighten already strict border measures. On November 29, the border was suddenly closed to non-Japanese only three weeks after border controls were relaxed. At the time, the government explained that access restrictions would be indefinite until “more is known about the variant.”

The Kishida administration has adopted the aggressive previous COVID-19 border approach of the two previous governments, which has kept tourists out of the country for over two years and has restricted re-entry to foreign residents from specific countries.

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Japan’s inconsistent entry ban on foreigners has been criticized as a double standard, unscientific and xenophobic. In early January, the government was proud to curb the domestic spread of COVID-19 through access restrictions. Despite initial public support for the recent entry ban, after Omicron became the dominant tribe in late January, the government failed to justify the continued border restrictions.

Foreign students and language schools in Japan are tired and have been disappointed time and time again. During the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which was held in the middle of a fatal outbreak driven by the Delta variant, some students criticized the level of preparation to accept about 11,000 athletes from around the world and the lack of response from foreign students.

Over the past many months, the government has been reluctant to provide a timeline for easing border restrictions, rather than asking for patience. But in mid-February, members of the ruling party’s education department called on the government to prioritize foreign students, warning that Japan could be left out of the global race to secure talent.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio is focused on easing border restrictions “in stages” in “consideration of the infection situation inside and outside the country.” It is unclear how long the border will be open this time, as health experts in Japan warn of a possible increase in the case of the BA2 subvariant, commonly called “Stealth Omicron.” Last week in Tokyo, 12.3 percent of the positive cases were found to be BA2. There is concern that it may prolong the sixth wave.

In an unexpected change of attitude, Kishida held a press conference on March 3, praising foreign students as being a “national treasure” that will play a role in helping Japan’s future. Last week, the government announced that a cash distribution of 100,000 yen ($ 850) to foreign students experiencing coronavirus-related financial difficulties would arrive by the end of the month. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu said the acceptance of foreign students is “extremely important for improving our nation’s educational and research capacity and for building friendly relations with different nations.”

Japan’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, issued a proposal calling on the government to completely abolish access restrictions and treat COVID-19 as an epidemic rather than a pandemic in light of the availability of vaccines and antiviral treatments. This is the fifth time that the Keidanren has submitted proposals regarding exit strategies for a post-coronavirus transition. At a press conference on March 7, the group’s chairman expressed concern that access restrictions are taking a toll on the country’s reputation.

Japan’s COVID-19 policy has been criticized by the German Chamber of Commerce, which said that German companies operating in Japan have lost 13 billion yen ($ 130 million) due to staff not being able to enter in Japan. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also said the border restrictions raise serious questions about whether Japan is a reliable long-term partner for foreign companies.

The government is considering lifting almost the state of emergency on its March 21 expiration date. But at present, there are no plans to allow tourists to enter Japan.

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