Japan will ease border controls with COVID-19 from September 7

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans Wednesday to ease border controls starting in early September by eliminating requirements for pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travelers who have received at least three doses of the vaccine, and he will also consider increasing daily entry limits as soon as next month.

Japan, which has imposed some of the toughest border measures for the coronavirus, currently requires negative PCR test results within 72 hours of departure for all participants, a practice that has been criticized as cumbersome.

Kishida, after holding virtual meetings with cabinet ministers and medical advisers earlier Wednesday, told reporters at an online news conference that participants who have received at least one booster vaccine can waive the pre-entry test that begins on Sept. 7.

“We plan to gradually ease border controls to allow entry procedures to be as smooth as in the other group of seven countries,” Kishida said from his official residence, where he has been on duty while self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. .

Kishida said his government also plans to raise the daily limit on incoming travelers, currently set at 20,000, “as soon as possible.” Media reports say the government is considering more than doubling the daily limit to 50,000 as early as next month.

“Our fight against the virus is not easy, but we should not be too afraid and instead pay attention to the characteristics of the omicron variant,” Kishida said. “We will speed up our responses while balancing the infection measures and social and economic activities as much as possible.”

Kishida said Japan plans to shorten the self-isolation period for COVID-19 patients from the current 10 days for those with symptoms and one week for those without symptoms. Officials are finalizing those details, he said.

In June, Japan partially opened its borders to foreign tourists for the first time in two years, but only allowed those who agree to join package tours with guides. The number of registrants has fallen below these restrictions.

Business organizations inside and outside Japan have called on the country to ease border controls to support the economy, particularly the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. But many Japanese are wary of further easing of border measures as the country grapples with a seventh wave of infections.

Clinics have been flooded with patients with mild symptoms such as fever, sore throat and cough, due to a lack of tests and test kits in pharmacies and online.

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