THE JAPANESE government will extend the entry ban for foreigners who are not residents of the country until the end of February. This was announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, quoted from Kyodo, Wednesday (1/12). The ban has been in effect since November 30, after the country confirmed its first case of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“The infection situation related to Omicron is clearly different at home and abroad, so the (current border control) framework will be maintained until the end of February,” Kishida said.

The government introduced the measures initially for about a month, barring the entry of non-resident foreigners and requiring Japanese nationals and returning foreign residents to be quarantined at government-designated facilities.

It also limits the number of those arriving in Japan to around 3,500 per day. Among tourism, travel and retail businesses, some strongly advocate a good balance between border enforcement measures and the promotion of economic activity.

“We miss practical antivirus measures and the promotion of social and economic activities at the same time,” said Shinya Katanozaka, president of ANA Holdings Inc., in a statement released amid a drastic reduction in international flights.

“We hope (incoming tourists) will return as soon as possible, but we can’t predict the time at all,” said a public relations official with a major travel company.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus infection, shopping malls in Japan had enjoyed large crowds of overseas shoppers boosted by the Lunar New Year holidays in January and February. Currently, the shopping malls have shifted their focus to domestic shoppers to face the tough times.

Japan has also barred re-entry of foreign residents in the country who have visited 11 countries, including South Africa, within 14 days, but it will lift restrictions due to “humanitarian considerations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

After the current strict border restrictions were introduced in late November, Kishida said they would be extended “for now” in early January.

Kishida recently told Fuji TV that the government will decide whether to resume current border controls. [antaranews/photo special]