Japan has ended its blanket COVID-19 testing of visitors from mainland China as part of an easing of border controls due to travelers making the journey returning a low rate of positive results since late January.

The switch to sample testing beginning Wednesday comes after Japan tightened its coronavirus border restrictions on visitors from China last December and again in January amid a surge of cases there.

File photo shows travelers waiting in lines on Feb. 5, 2023, at Beijing Capital International Airport. (Kyodo)

Travelers from China will still have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken 72 hours or less before departure.

Under the eased rules, up to 20 percent of arrivals will be subject to testing, which will be conducted on all passengers arriving on selected flights.

Japan has also lifted a restriction that permitted direct flights from mainland China to arrive at only the four main airports of Narita, Haneda, Kansai and Chubu.

Japan's health ministry says the rate of positive COVID-19 tests among travelers from China has been below 1 percent since late January.

China saw its COVID-19 cases rise rapidly after relaxing in December its "zero-COVID" policy that involved lockdowns and strict quarantine requirements.

At the end of last year, the Japanese government implemented a requirement that all travelers from mainland China and those who visited it within the previous seven days test for COVID-19 upon arrival.

In early January, it further tightened border controls for visitors from mainland China by requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.

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