Japan lifted its COVID-19 border controls for all arrivals on Saturday, with the decision brought forward by the government in anticipation of an increase in travelers during the annual Golden Week holiday that began the same day.
The change means Japan will no longer require all entrants to present certification of at least three COVID-19 vaccination doses or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.
The government had originally planned to end the border measures on May 8, a day after the extended Golden Week holidays and the same date the coronavirus' legal status will be downgraded to the same threat level as common infectious diseases such as seasonal influenza.
The decision draws a line under Japan's coronavirus border policy, which began in February 2020 as a ban on foreign nationals with a history of travel to China's Hubei Province, where the virus was first detected at the end of 2019.
By the end of 2020, it became a blanket ban on new entries from anywhere in the world. Although some of the rules were later relaxed, a ban on new foreign entries was applied again in late 2021 following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
In 2022, the government began gradually increasing daily entry quotas, culminating in a full reopening to tourists in October.
Regarding its approach to China, the government no longer requests that visitors from the mainland submit to random testing at airports, which replaced blanket COVID-19 testing that ended in March.
In late December, Japan introduced a requirement that all arrivals from mainland China be screened for the virus amid an explosion in infections in the country after Beijing drastically relaxed its stringent "zero-COVID" policy that had involved lockdowns and quarantines.
The Japanese government switched to random testing at airports after finding that the number of arrivals testing positive had dropped.
On May 8, Japan will start a new genomic surveillance program at Haneda, Narita and three other major airports, under which entrants with symptoms including fever are asked to undergo a voluntary test to detect new infectious diseases.