Japan to halt pre-departure COVID testing for fully vaccinated tourists in September

Japan is ending its pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers with at least one booster dose, making it one of the last countries to do so.

The country, which has enforced some of the strictest border measures since the start of the pandemic, had demanded a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Wednesday that the restrictions will end on September 7.

“We plan to gradually relax border controls to make entry procedures as smooth as those of other Group of Seven countries,” Kishida said during a virtual press conference from his official residence, where he is isolating after testing positive for COVID. -Sunday. “We will accelerate our efforts while balancing contagion measures and social and economic activities as much as possible.”

PHOTO: People wearing face masks are seen in an arrival hall at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Aug. 23, 2022, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

People wearing face masks are seen in an arrival hall of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on August 23, 2022, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyodo News via AP

This makes Japan one of the last countries to drop pre-departure testing, with only a few remaining in the requirement, such as China and South Korea.

Kishida also announced that the isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 will be shortened, but did not provide details. Currently, people with symptoms are required to isolate themselves for 10 days and those without symptoms for seven days.

However, other restrictions in the country remain in place. Japan will maintain its limit of 20,000 daily visitors.

Kishida did say the government is considering raising the daily limit for travelers next month. Local media posts suggest the government more than doubles the limit to 50,000 a day.

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So far, only 387,000 people have visited Japan between January and May this year, according to the National Tourism Organization of Japan. This pales in comparison to the 31.8 million people who visited the country in 2019.

In addition, foreign tourists are only allowed to visit as part of a guided package tour and must apply for a visa. Self-employed travelers are not yet allowed to enter the country.

Currently, these include Japanese citizens, relatives of Japanese residents, international students, and certain business travelers.

It is unclear when a full reopening will take place.

The changes come as Japan battles another wave of COVID-19 infections. According to the World Health OrganisationJapan confirmed more than 185,400 cases on Tuesday. At the beginning of July, the country registered only 23,000 new cases.

The number of COVID-19-related deaths has also increased. On Tuesday, the country recorded 269 deaths, WHO data shows. Meanwhile, Japan reported between 10 and 15 deaths a day in early July.

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