Japan is considering easing COVID-19 border controls on travelers arriving from China by the end of this month, a government source said Thursday, with the rate of arrivals testing positive for the virus dropping recently.

Instead of requiring testing of all visitors from China, the government under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to adopt a selective approach to testing arrivals, the source said.

Passengers from Shanghai arrive at Narita airport near Tokyo on Dec. 30, 2022, with a notice board (L) seen showing the Japanese government's new travel restrictions requiring all air travelers from mainland China to take an antigen test upon arrival. (Kyodo)

In China, the number of infections with the novel coronavirus exploded after Beijing in December last year started drastically relaxing its stringent "zero-COVID" policy that had involved lockdowns and quarantines.

The Japanese government is likely to continue requiring tourists from China to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, according to the source.

The Kishida administration, meanwhile, plans to scrap a rule limiting departures and arrivals of direct flights connecting Japan with mainland China to four major airports -- Narita, Haneda, Kansai and Chubu.

The government will also allow airlines to increase the number of direct flights to and from China, the source said.

Japan tightened quarantine measures for arrivals from mainland China in late December.

Currently, all travelers from China, including those who have visited the country within seven days, are asked to take a PCR or high-sensitivity antigen test upon arrival in Japan. People who test positive must quarantine at a designated facility for up to seven days.

The rethink comes as the rate of positive COVID tests among travelers from China has stayed below 1 percent since late January, with only a limited range of mutations found, the health ministry said.

After Japan bolstered COVID-19 steps against Chinese nationals, the Communist-led government suspended issuing visas for Japanese citizens in early January before resuming the service later in the month.

Related coverage:

Japan to tighten border controls for travelers from China