Japan to reopen borders for foreign residents; tourism remains closed

Published on : Friday, September 25, 2020

Japan has finally started planning to take a step towards reopening its borders to all countries in order to allow foreign residents and students to return to the country in October after its borders closed back in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The new border policy will be limited to 1000 people per day in the beginning and is dependent on the epidemiological situation in Japan. 


All foreign residents returning to Japan will have to undergo mandatory 14 day quarantine, however, it is uncertain if the quarantine period would be state-run or people have to undergo self-isolation. Although, the Japanese government has already suggested that travellers who obtain a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, and agree to have another test done upon arrival, may be able to avoid the 14-day quarantine, providing both tests are negative. However, confirmation regarding the suggestion is yet to arrive.


The reopening would allow foreign residents and students who were stranded out of their homes, jobs and schools to finally return to Japan. The policy that locked out legal residents was viewed with disapproval by many in the international community. At present, preference will be given to foreign residents or students that are returning for a stay of 3 months or longer. 


On the other hand, no decision has been undertaken about reopening the borders for tourism. Though the country has reopened many tourist attractions and resumed most businesses, no date on a reopening for international tourism has been given. However, Japan has started reopening for business travel to selected countries. On September 18, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan announced they will begin procedures for a Business Fast Track agreement between Japan and Singapore.


Earlier this month, the country announced that it has decided to reopen borders in three states. The first stage involved the return of business travellers, followed by the return of students and foreign residents in state two and finally the return of tourism in stage three. Therefore, the country is presently undergoing the second phase of border reopening and will resume tourist activities once it moves to the third stage.


The Japanese Tourism Board said in a recent statement that a gradual reopening of Japan’s borders is being prepared at present, starting towards countries where the coronavirus outbreak has been contained or which have important ties to Japan. It informed that Vietnam is expected to be first, alongside Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, China, and Singapore, which are some other early candidates. It has also been mentioned that entry will initially be limited to business travelers, experts and trainees followed by students and eventually allow tourists at later point.



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