Japan rolls back easing borders, bans foreign visitors over Omicron – .

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Japan rolls back easing borders, bans foreign visitors over Omicron – .


  • Restrictions take effect at midnight
  • Move reverses the easing of sidewalks
  • Japan’s COVID-19 cases remain low

TOKYO, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Japan on Monday announced it would close its borders to foreigners to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, joining Israel in imposing some of the strictest border controls since the variant was discovered in southern Africa.

Japan will ban entry to foreigners from midnight on Monday, and Japanese returnees from a number of specified countries will be required to self-quarantine at designated facilities, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

“These are temporary and exceptional measures that we are taking for safety reasons until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant,” Kishida told reporters.

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“I am ready to endure any criticism from those who say the Kishida administration is too cautious. “

The stricter restrictions mark a swift tightening after Japan already announced on Friday that it would tighten border controls on people arriving from six African countries, even though no cases of Omicron have been detected in the country and many much about the new variant remains unknown.

Nations around the world have adopted border restrictions since the WHO called Omicron a “variant of concern.”

But Japan’s measures are among the strongest, after Israel in banning foreigners from entering, and Morocco, which has halted all inbound flights for two weeks, and they mark a rapid change of course.

BUSINESS HALL

For months, business lobbies in Japan have demanded that the government relax some of the most restrictive border controls in the world.

Last week alone, a monthly limit for inbound travelers was increased from 3,500 to 5,000 and earlier this month, quarantine periods were shortened for vaccinated passengers.

A government official said all relaxations would be revoked, although foreigners with current resident visas will be allowed to re-enter Japan, as will some diplomatic travelers and humanitarian cases.

Kishida said he would step up Japan’s response to the pandemic after dissatisfaction over the handling of the crisis prompted the resignation of his predecessor Yoshihide Suga in September.

Koji Wada, a professor at the Tokyo International University of Health and Welfare and government advisor on the pandemic response, said Japanese citizens must support a “sweeping decision” even though the business world was unhappy.

“This is a good opportunity for the government to show its attitude towards COVID-19, and I think a lot of people will support this decision,” Wada said.

“The problem is that closing the border is not a solution. The government should have a medium term plan on how to deal with this Omicron virus, ”he added.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said a traveler from Namibia had tested positive for the new coronavirus, but further testing was needed to find out if it came from the new variant.

After a slow start, Japan’s vaccination rate is the highest among the Group of Seven economies, and COVID-19 infections have declined significantly since a fifth wave peaked in August.

Tokyo reported eight new cases on Monday, up from more than 5,000 a day in the weeks following the Summer Olympics held in the Japanese capital.

However, health experts are worried about a possible rebound this winter, and a series of recalls are scheduled from December 1.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it could take “from a few days to several weeks” to determine the severity of the new variant.

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Reporting by Elaine Lies, Kantaro Komiya and Rocky Swift; Editing by Tom Hogue, Stephen Coates and Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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