Japanese PM Kishida announces decision to ease border control measures in March

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a press conference on Thursday.

Coronavirus-related border control measures will be eased from March, and nonresident foreigners such as businesspeople, students and technical interns will be allowed to enter Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday.

“The spread of omicron variant infections is slowing down. I believe we are taking steps toward the way out of the sixth wave,” he said during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The decision was made after the number of new infections, which had surged since January, has started to show a downward trend. There were also calls from the business community and other parties for relaxing the restrictions.

The current measures ban entries of nonresident foreigners in principle, and the total number of people entering or returning to Japan is limited to about 3,500 per day. Starting in March, nonresident foreigners will be allowed to come to Japan, except for those on sightseeing trips, and the upper limit will be raised to about 5,000 per day.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The current border control measures were announced on Nov. 29, just before the first infection case of the omicron variant was confirmed in Japan.

Starting on March 1, foreigners on short-term business stays, foreign students and technical interns, among others, will be allowed to come to Japan.

Regulations involving self-isolation upon entry will also be eased. Currently, people are required to stay at home or at government-designated facilities and other locations for seven days in principle, but the period will be shortened to three days if they meet certain conditions such as providing negative test results.

Those who come from countries and regions where infections are not spreading and also have received a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine will be exempt from the self-isolation requirement.

However, the prime minister emphasized that there would not be swift and sweeping change. “It’s not realistic to relax all the measures at once. This is the first step,” he said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, over 100,000 people entered Japan per day, so 5,000 is still a very limited number. The government will consider increasing this figure, taking into account the infection situation and border control and quarantine measures in each country.

Quasi-emergency to end in 5 prefs

Among the 21 prefectures where the quasi-emergency priority measures were to be in place through Sunday, Kishida said the measures will end in the five prefectures of Yamagata, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Oita and Okinawa — the first time for such measures to end since the omicron-related surge of infections began.

For the other 16 prefectures — and for Wakayama Prefecture, where the measures were to end on Feb. 27 — they will be extended to March 6.

“We will work closely together with the related local governments. Should we decide [the measures] could end earlier, they might be lifted before March 6,” Kishida said.