Japan will lift its entry ban on foreign travelers from Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and six other countries this month for non-tourist arrivals.
The move comes as the country gradually eases its Covid-19 travel restrictions in a bid to revive its battered economy, Kyodo News reported.
Government officials said Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, China, New Zealand and Australia will also be taken off the entry ban list as all of them have largely brought their Covid-19 outbreaks under control.
It is the first time Japan has lifted its entry ban on any country or region since it started doing so in February.
According to Kyodo News, Japan will maintain its restrictions on tourists from other countries with Myanmar and Jordan becoming the latest to be added to the restriction list. This brings the total number of countries and regions covered by the entry ban to 152.
Japan will also ease its requirements for those returning from overseas trips as they undergo their 14-day quarantine.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said this was aimed at encouraging business activity on a limited scale while reassuring that his government would “prevent an explosive rise in infections at all costs”.
To be eligible for the exemption, returning travelers will need a company or organization to take responsibility against spreading the coronavirus.
They will need to limit their overseas trips to within seven days, excluding any quarantine period at the destination, and test negative upon their return.
For the first 14 days back in Japan, they must not use public transport and save their smartphone GPS data to aid in contact tracing.
Meanwhile, testing capacity in Tokyo will be increased to about 65,000 per day by early December.
Governor Yuriko Koike said the plan was part of preparations for the twin threat of Covid-19 and the seasonal influenza.
During the period, authorities expect around 52,000 suspected flu patients with fever and about 13,000 suspected Covid-19 patients per day.
Tokyo’s Covid-19 testing capacity was increased to the current 25,000 per day from about 10,000 on Oct 1.
Suspected flu patients will first take flu tests, which provides faster results. If they test negative, coronavirus testing will then be conducted.
Tokyo has reported over 30,000 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, the most among Japan’s 47 prefectures.
The average daily number of new cases in Tokyo over the past week has remained almost flat at below 200.
As for the flu, only four cases have been confirmed in the capital as of Sunday, significantly lower compared to last year, according to Kyodo News.