Japan will lift its entry ban on foreign travelers from China, South Korea, six other countries and Taiwan from November for non-tourist arrivals, government officials said Friday, as it gradually eases COVID-19 travel restrictions in a bid to revive its battered economy.
Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam will also be taken off the entry ban list, all of them having largely brought their outbreaks under control, the officials said.
It is the first time Japan has lifted its entry ban on any country or region since it began putting parts of China, including Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected, on the list in early February.
Japan, however, continues to suspend visa waiver agreements with other countries and limit the issuance of new visas, meaning, in most cases, tourists will still not be able to visit.
The decision, made at a meeting of the government's coronavirus response task force presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was announced after the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day lowered its travel advisories for the countries and Taiwan from Level 3 to Level 2.
In addition, Japan will ease its requirement for Japanese nationals and foreign residents returning from overseas trips to undergo a 14-day quarantine period, also from Sunday.
Suga said the move was aimed at facilitating business activity, albeit on a limited scale, adding that his government would "prevent an explosive rise in infections at all costs" while leading the world's third-largest economy toward recovery.
To be eligible for the exemption, returning travelers will need a company or organization to assume responsibility for taking precautionary measures against spreading the coronavirus.
They will need to limit their overseas trips to within seven days, not including any quarantine period at the destination, and test negative upon their return. For the first 14 days back in Japan, they will also be asked to refrain from using public transportation and save their smartphone GPS data to aid in contact tracing.
The officials, meanwhile, said Myanmar and Jordan will be added to the list, bringing the total number of countries and regions covered by the entry ban to 152.
Foreigners without residential status who have recently been to any of these places will, in principle, be turned away, with some exceptions for humanitarian reasons.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced the lowering of the travel advisories in a press conference on Friday, requesting citizens avoid nonessential trips to these areas, whereas the ministry had previously warned against all travel.
Separately, Japan eliminated another set of travel advisories it had issued for all countries and regions in March to alert travelers of the possible risks of becoming stranded on foreign soil due to tightened border controls and the imposition of lockdowns.
Motegi also said Japan and Vietnam have agreed to restart reciprocal business travel from Sunday.
With the resumption, travelers will no longer need to observe a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival, provided they take similar preventative measures outlined in the exemption for Japanese nationals and foreign residents.
Vietnam became the third country Japan has resumed travel with for people on short-term business trips, following Singapore and South Korea.