As Japan prepares to soften its tight COVID-19 rules, the country’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday that beginning the next week, tourists would be allowed to visit Japan on package tours without the need for a guide.
According to statements made by Kishida to the press on September 6, the number of persons who are permitted to enter Japan each day would increase to 50,000 starting on that day.
It wasn’t until June that Japan started permitting visitors to enter the country, but only on the condition that they arrived in tour groups and were escorted by guides. This is because Japan has maintained its stringent border controls for a longer period of time than many other large economies.
“As international exchange grows more active internationally, Japan will join this movement,” said Kishida, who has himself recently recovered from COVID-19. “This movement will also be joined by Japan from the standpoint of taking advantage of a low yen,” Kishida said.
In addition, as of the same day, “we will also make it possible for visitors from all nations to enter the country on package tours without tour guides, and we will continue with making entrance processes easier at airports,” he said.
However, the actions taken are not sufficient to achieve a complete reopening, and travellers are still need to seek visas and plan their vacations via travel agencies.
The Japanese government would reportedly advise visitors who test positive for COVID-19 in Japan to avoid close contact with other individuals, as has been reported by the local media and the national broadcaster NHK.
Kishida said that one of his goals was to facilitate the movement of individuals over the border. People who work in the business sector want to see the reinstatement of a waiver program that eliminated the need for visas for visitors from the majority of countries across the globe.
He also said that Japan’s goal is to “allow easy admission” in the future, much like the other nations in the Group of Seven.
The nation has never instituted a stringent lockdown, and it has documented a total of around 39,000 fatalities from the epidemic, which is far lower than many other nations have reported.
There are around 64 percent of persons in the population who have gotten all three vaccination doses, and more over 90 percent of those aged 65 and older have done so.
Despite this, the nation has maintained its stringent border regulations throughout the epidemic. During the most severe stages of the first waves of infection, non-citizen residents were barred from entering the country for a period of several months.
Although group tours have been permitted in Japan since June, the Japan National Tourism Organization reports that in July only roughly 144,500 visitors from outside the nation visited the country.
Before the epidemic hit, the country was on pace to meet its target of 40 million tourists from other countries in 2020 and received an all-time high of 31.9 million visitors from other countries in 2019.