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Japan balks at waiving quarantine for vaccinated travelers

japan-balks-at-waiving-quarantine-for-vaccinated-travelers

japan-balks-at-waiving-quarantine-for-vaccinated-travelers

An inbound passenger from the U.S. screened at Narita Airport: Japan’s quarantine policy is stricter than those of many other countries. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

MARIE SAHORI, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO — Japan remains reluctant to ease its 14-day quarantine requirement for even fully vaccinated travelers from overseas, bucking a global trend and possibly delaying the resumption of business travel.

Japan’s quarantine policy is stricter than those of many other countries. All travelers from overseas must quarantine for 14 days at home or a hotel. Australia also generally mandates a two-week quarantine.

Restrictions on foreign arrivals to Japan are administered by the health ministry, which handles quarantines; the foreign ministry, which issues visas; and the Immigration Services Agency, which monitors arrivals and departures.

The health ministry, in particular, has been unwilling to budge.

The 14-day quarantine was introduced in March 2020 for travelers from coronavirus-hit China and South Korea, and later expanded to everyone entering the country. Now, even with vaccines known to curb transmission of COVID-19, the ministry has yet to consider conditions for easing this requirement.

“There is no precedent” for shortening quarantine periods based on vaccination status, the ministry’s Office of Quarantine Station Administration said.

The July 26 opening of applications for vaccine passports for people seeking to travel abroad “can become an important step leading to the reopening of international travel,” said Tomoyuki Yoshida, the foreign ministry’s press secretary, in a news conference Wednesday. The government should give the issue consideration while keeping an eye on discussions here and overseas, he said.

Currently, even travelers with proof of vaccination have to self-quarantine after entering Japan.

The strong reluctance to relax ease port-of-entry restrictions is shared by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition.

“The LDP is receiving blowback because of the government’s port-of-entry measures,” said Masahisa Sato, head of the party’s diplomatic policy arm, in early July. The LDP is at risk of being tied to the mounting number of infections ahead of the general election around October.

The Constitutional Democratic Party, meanwhile, is pushing strict port-of-entry measures under its “zero corona” strategy.

In the U.S., the Biden administration plans to ease entry controls. It is exploring a vaccine requirement for all inbound foreign travelers, regardless of whether they come from countries subject to restrictions.

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