The government said Tuesday it will ask foreign tourists to wear face masks and take out insurance to cover medical expenses in the event they contract COVID-19 as Japan restarts accepting visitors in stages later this week.
The tourism ministry has compiled guidelines for travel agencies and hotels ahead of Friday's resumption of accepting arrivals for the purpose of tourism. Entry will be initially restricted to guided tours from 98 countries and regions presenting the lowest risk of infection, including the United States, Britain, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
"Understanding of the guidelines and compliance will lead to the smooth resumption of inbound tourism and its expansion," Tetsuo Saito, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, told a press conference.
Under the guidelines, travel agencies will gain the consent of tour participants to comply with the measures by explaining upon sales or reservation of tours that they will not be penalized for failing to comply but may not be able to take part in tours.
The guidelines also state that travel agencies will set tour routes to avoid crowded areas and select facilities that thoroughly implement antivirus measures, and gather information on multilingual medical institutions and hotels for isolation.
While in Japan, the agencies will transport tour participants found to be infected with the novel coronavirus to medical institutions and support them until they leave the country. They will also ask participants to notify them if they are found infected with the novel coronavirus within a week after returning home.
The agencies will keep records of the tours, including places they visited and where they sat in public transportation, so that if participants are found to be infected they can quickly identify close contacts who need to be isolated.
Those who are not close contacts will be able to continue their tour.
Ahead of the resumption of tourist travel, Japan has conducted test tours for inbound travelers from the United States, Australia, Singapore and Thailand. The Thai group's tour was suspended after a participant tested positive for the virus.
The country has been gradually easing restrictions on the entry of foreign visitors, seeking to match other Group of Seven nations after coming under fire at home and abroad for its tough border controls.
But it is likely to take some time for the country to reopen its borders to individual tourists as concern lingers within the government over the potential resurgence of infections.
Japan on Wednesday doubled its cap on daily arrivals to the country to 20,000 and allowed most to forgo COVID-19 tests and quarantine periods. The forthcoming guided tour participants will be included in the 20,000-per-day arrival quota.
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