Japan’s Kishida to announce easing of pandemic border controls

Japan’s Kishida to announce easing of pandemic border controls

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to announce an easing of the country’s strict pandemic-related border restrictions, including an end to pre-departure COVID-19 tests, according to Japanese media.

Kishida will hold a briefing on Wednesday afternoon to announce the new measures, which will include waiving coronavirus tests for vaccinated arrivals, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The government is also expected to raise its daily cap on arrivals, with the Fuji News Network reporting that the quota could be raised from 20,000 to 50,000 as early as next month.

Japan is one of the last major economies relying on strict border controls to manage the virus, despite vaccinating more than 80 percent of its population.

Under the current rules, inbound passengers must present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure and tourists are restricted to guided, package tours.

Kishida, who has cancelled trips to the Middle East and Africa after testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, said in May that he planned to bring Japan’s border measures more in line with G7nations.

Although Japan welcomed the return of tourists for the first time in two years in June, the strict conditions for entry have kept the number of visitors at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels.

Japan welcomed about 144,500 foreign arrivals last month, fewer than 8,000 of whom travelled for tourism purposes, according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation. The July figures represent a 95 percent plunge compared with the same month in 2019.

Business groups have called on the government to further ease , warning Japan could be left behind economically as the rest of the world learns to live with the virus.

Despite Japan’s relative isolation, COVID-19 cases in the country have soared to record highs, topping 250,000 daily cases since the start of August.