Japan further tightened border controls for travelers from mainland China on Sunday, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test amid a surge of cases in the neighboring country.

Since September 2022, travelers from abroad who have been vaccinated at least three times did not need to take coronavirus tests within 72 hours of departure to prove they are not infected.

However, people arriving from mainland China are now required to present proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure. The new requirement does not apply to those flying in from Hong Kong or Macau.

Passengers from Shanghai present proof of a negative COVID-19 test at Narita airport near Tokyo on Jan. 8, 2023. (Kyodo)

In addition, all travelers from mainland China and those who have visited the country within seven days are now required to take a PCR or high-sensitivity antigen test upon arrival in Japan, rather than a simple antigen test as previously.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival must quarantine for seven days if they exhibit symptoms or five days if they are asymptomatic.

The government will continue to restrict departures and arrivals of direct flights connecting Japan with mainland China to four airports -- Narita, Haneda, Kansai and Chubu.

While all airports in the country will become open to direct flights from Hong Kong and Macau due to a reduction in coronavirus cases in the two cities, airline operators have been requested not to increase the number of flights.

Arrivals from Hong Kong and Macau were previously restricted to the four Japanese airports, as well as New Chitose near Sapporo, Fukuoka and Naha airports, provided that none of the passengers had visited mainland China in the past seven days.

On Sunday, the new measures for travelers from mainland China were put into practice at Narita airport near Tokyo, as 150 passengers of a flight from Shanghai arrived at the airport in the afternoon and submitted saliva samples for the high-sensitivity antigen test.

The passengers also showed proof of a negative COVID-19 test in their smartphones or papers to airport officials. Hideaki Kono, one of the passengers and a company employee who had worked in Shanghai, said he had difficulties in obtaining the proof at a hospital in the Chinese city as it was crowded with people.

Starting in December, China began significantly easing its strict antivirus measures, including no longer restricting outings, and also stopped counting the exact number of daily cases.

China on Sunday reopened borders and abandoned quarantine measures, fully departing from its strict "zero-COVID" policy that involved lockdowns and isolation measures at designated facilities.

Travelers pull baggage in a departure lobby at Beijing Capital International Airport on Jan. 8, 2023 -- ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays starting Jan. 21 -- amid concern over the further spread of COVID-19 following the Chinese government's official ending the previous day of its "zero COVID" policy. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Japan greatly relaxed its border restrictions in October, allowing travelers to skip COVID-19 testing upon arrival provided they show proof of having undergone at least three vaccinations or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure.

Other countries worldwide have also stepped up border controls for travelers from China.

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