Japan to bar foreign arrivals amid Omicron concern: PM Kishida

Japan will reinstate tough border measures, barring all new foreign arrivals over the Omicron Covid-19 variant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Monday (Nov 29), just weeks after a softening of strict entry rules.

“We will ban the (new) entry of foreigners from around the world starting from Nov 30,” Kishida told reporters.

Japan’s borders have been almost entirely shut to new overseas visitors for most of the pandemic, with even foreign residents at one point unable to enter the country.

Early this month, the government announced it would finally allow some short-term business travellers, foreign students and other visa holders to enter the country while continuing to bar tourists.

Japan had already announced it would require travellers permitted to enter Japan from nine southern African countries to quarantine in government-designated facilities for 10 days on arrival.

That measure affects travellers coming from South Africa and neighbouring Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

Kishida said on Monday that further quarantine restrictions would be imposed on arrivals from an additional 14 countries where the variant has been detected, without giving further details.

Japan has recorded just over 18,300 coronavirus deaths during the pandemic while avoiding tough lockdowns.

After a slow start, the country’s vaccination programme picked up speed, with 76.5 per cent of the population now fully inoculated.