Japan weighs in on easing border rules over COVID -media

A passenger wearing a protective mask walks past an arrival gate at Narita International Airport on the first day of border closures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus variant Omicron amid the disease pandemic coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Japan may lift pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers and raise daily caps for inbound passengers, national media reported.

Japan has some of the strictest pandemic border measures among major economies, requiring travelers to present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The government may soon waive testing for vaccinated passengers, with the change taking effect within weeks, Nikkei reported Monday evening. A daily cap on incoming travelers could be raised from 20,000 to 50,000 as early as next month, Fuji News Network said on Tuesday.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined to comment on the timing of any border easing, saying it would depend on COVID conditions in Japan and overseas.

“In addition to taking all measures to prevent contagion, we will also promote economic activity – and with border control measures, we will relax them in stages while keeping these two things in balance,” Matsuno told reporters. journalists.

Japan’s foreign ministry said it was aware of the media reports, but deferred comments to the health ministry, which has jurisdiction over border infection controls. The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is recovering from COVID at home after testing positive on Sunday, said in May he wanted to bring Japan’s border measures more in line with those of other Group of Seven countries. Read more

In June, Japan opened up to tourists for the first time in two years, although visitors must obtain visas and stick to guided package tours. Read more

Domestic and foreign business groups have called for more relaxation of Japan’s border controls, saying the measures risk sinking the country economically.

European and US business lobbies welcomed the reported easing measures, while urging Japan to restore visa waiver eligibility for business travelers and tourists.

“We would like to reiterate that the need for business people to have a visa before leaving for Japan is still an obstacle,” said European Business Council President Michael Mroczek. “This especially for companies that don’t have a presence in Japan.”

Om Prakash, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, encouraged the government to align its border travel policies with other G7 countries “to restore Japan’s reputation as a welcoming and open place.”

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Reporting by Rocky Swift and Elaine Lies in Tokyo. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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