The Japanese government is considering easing its entry ban on visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand currently in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, a government source said Monday.
Infections have subsided in those countries, which have strong business ties with Japan. Lifting the ban for business visitors is being eyed as a first step and Tokyo will negotiate conditions with the four nations, according to the source.
As of Monday, Japan has imposed entry bans on 111 countries and regions including the United States, most of Asia and all of Europe. The bans are currently in effect until the end of June.
The first easing may take place this summer after the government works out details and makes arrangements with the four countries. Japan is considering allowing entry of foreigners from the countries who have certification for testing negative for the virus, according to the source.
Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand are among the 11 members of a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that Japan is also part of. Thailand, which wants to join the multilateral framework, hosts many Japanese companies, including automakers.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that while Japan remains vigilant against the global spread of the coronavirus, it is also important to start considering how to resume international travel.
"In terms of how we can resume international travel partially or in stages, we need to carefully consider which countries and who (will be targeted) and necessary procedures," Suga said at a press conference.
"The government will comprehensively make a judgment at the appropriate time," the top government spokesman said.
Japan and Vietnam agreed Monday to hold consultations over the potential resumption of travel between the two nations while keeping necessary steps in place against the novel coronavirus, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The agreement was made during a telephone conversation between Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
The number of travelers to Japan has plunged in recent months amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Under the current border control measures, foreigners, including some of those with residency in Japan, who have been to countries on the entry ban list within 14 days of their arrival in Japan will be turned away.
A 14-day quarantine period applies to all travelers to Japan, including Japanese nationals, who are granted entry.
Japan has so far avoided an explosive surge in coronavirus infections and fully lifted last week a state of emergency that was first declared on April 7 and covered all 47 prefectures at one point.
The end of the virus emergency has opened the way for a gradual reopening of the economy but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he will carefully review the travel bans.