Japan will deny entry to foreign travelers from a further 14 countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, strengthening its border controls to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday.
With the ban effective from Wednesday, those who have been to the countries within two weeks of their arrival in Japan will be turned away at the border. Speaking at a meeting of the government's task force on the coronavirus response, Abe also said Japan will extend its suspension of visas issued to foreign travelers to the end of May.
Japan has been scrambling to stop a rapid rise in cases of COVID-19, with the population being urged to stay at home and some businesses being asked to temporarily close in order to reduce person-to-person interactions that could spread the respiratory disease.
The other countries newly blacklisted are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belarus, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry last week warned Japanese citizens against any trips to these countries, raising its travel alert to the second-highest level.
That brings the total number of countries and regions covered by the entry ban to 87, including China, South Korea, the United States and all of Europe.
The stricter border controls have already stopped most foreign travelers from visiting Japan, dealing a massive blow to the world's third-largest economy. Government data for March showed a 93 percent drop from a year earlier, with an even larger decline expected in April.
While Japanese citizens are able to re-enter the country, they are required to be tested for coronavirus and self-isolate for two weeks, and to look out for the onset of symptoms such as high fever and coughing.
Japan has meanwhile suspended visas issued in more than 170 countries, a measure that was initially put in place until the end of April but has now been extended to the end of May as the outbreak continues to spread globally.
Additionally, citizens of countries that have a short-stay visa waiver agreement with Japan will not be able to take advantage of the privilege during this period.