Japan to halt new entry of foreign nationals over new virus strain

The Japanese government will ban entry to most foreigners through the end of January as coronavirus cases reach record highs there and the nation confirmed its first cases of the new, more infectious Covid strain.
December 27, 2020 | 11:39
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The Japanese government said Saturday it will ban new entries of all non-Japanese nationals from around the globe in principle from Dec. 28 through the end of January. (Photo: Kyodo)

Japan will temporarily suspend new entry into the country of nonresident foreign nationals from around the world from Monday through the end of January as a precautionary step against the new, potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant, the government said Saturday.

The government said it has decided to take the measure as the variant, first detected in Britain, is spreading in several countries. Japanese citizens and foreign residents will be allowed to enter but must show proof of a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before departing for Japan and must quarantine for two weeks after arrival, the government said in an emailed statement, according to Japan Times.

The move comes amid mounting concerns over the spread of a new variant of the virus at a time when cases in Tokyo have reached new highs. The variant, which emerged in southeast England in September and is spreading rapidly in the U.K., is much more infectious than previous strains. Germany, France, Switzerland, Ireland, and Sweden are among the nations that have confirmed the presence of the new variant.

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Japan’s travel restrictions follow steps taken by other countries in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus. (Photo: Getty)

On Saturday, Japan’s capital reported a record 949 new cases, with reports saying two more people, in addition to five confirmed on Friday, were found to be infected with the new strain. Governor Yuriko Koike said the New Year’s holiday period would be “a very important juncture” that would predict the future of Tokyo in 2021, and asked residents to avoid going out during the holidays.

Japan’s travel restrictions follow steps taken by other countries in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus, with early analysis suggesting the new variant may be as much as 70% more transmissible than other circulating strains, said Bloomberg.

Japan confirmed 3,878 coronavirus cases Saturday, a new record daily tally, as Tokyo and several other areas continued to report the highest numbers of infections as the year-end and New Year holidays commence across the country. The nationwide death toll linked to the virus also rose by 47 to 3,247. According to the health ministry, the number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms increased by 10 from the previous day to 654, also a record high.

Vietnam has not yet detected the new strain of coronavirus that has spread in the UK among legal immigrants, a health official affirmed on December 25. Vietnam’s borders remain closed in an attempt to keep out the virus. Only limited international flights are operating to repatriate Vietnamese nationals and transport foreign diplomats and experts. International commercial flights are halted since March 25.

In an unprecedented move to stem the Covid-19 outbreak, the government green-lighted in September the resumption of commercial flights to seven Asian destinations - mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, which was then shut in early December due to prevention of a 3rd outbreak. All entrants must be subject to 14-day mandatory quarantine, according to VN Express. Vietnamese carriers have not yet been allowed to operate inbound flights while the government finalizes quarantine procedures for foreign passengers.

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