Japan eases restrictions to allow return of its citizens

The Japanese government announced, Thursday, December 2, to have partially reversed its request to airlines to suspend new reservations to Japan, explaining that it wants to ensure that its nationals can return to their country.

Faced with fears about the Omicron variant, Tokyo had asked Wednesday 1is December for airlines to suspend all new bookings to its territory for a period of one month – a move that affected both Japanese citizens and foreign residents.

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“This request caused confusion among those concerned and the Prime Minister therefore asked the Ministry of Transport to review the matter in order to take into account the requests of Japanese citizens” who want to return to the archipelago, said government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.

The new restrictions come as a second case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 on Japanese soil was confirmed on Wednesday. The government said it was a traveler who arrived from Peru last week. The first case, announced Tuesday, involved a man from Namibia.

Closure of borders to all foreign visitors

In addition, Japan announced Monday the closure of its borders to all foreign visitors, just three weeks after relaxing some restrictions to allow the entry of business travelers, students and foreign interns.

He also decided on Tuesday to close its borders to all foreign nationals from ten countries of southern Africa, including South Africa, where the Omicron variant was identified for the first time.

Japan has been relatively spared from the pandemic, with some 18,350 dead since early 2020. It has also avoided strict containment measures, unlike many other countries. After a slow start, the national immunization campaign has gained momentum and nearly 77% of the country’s population has now received two injections. The administration of a third dose began Wednesday for people fully vaccinated for at least eight months.

Officially reported in South Africa on November 24, the Omicron variant would have actually started to spread around the world several days earlier, with Dutch health authorities announcing on Tuesday that Omicron was already circulating in the Netherlands on November 19.

The World with AFP