TOKYO (Bloomberg): Japan will extend its border measures until the end of February, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday (Jan 11), as virus cases surge after the country kept infections low for months.
Spooked by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the government in November reintroduced a ban on new entry by non-resident foreigners, initially for a one-month period.
Kishida told national broadcaster NHK on Sunday that he would remain cautious, because the variant is not yet fully understood.
After keeping cases under control for months, Japan has seen infection rates shoot up in some areas over the past few days. While low compared with some other nations, Japanese case numbers have climbed more than 10-fold since the start of the year, increasing concerns that a bigger wave is under way.
Record outbreaks in some areas around US military bases prompted Japan to call for tighter controls, and the two governments announced an agreement on confining troops to their bases for two weeks. Okinawa and two other areas close to US Marine bases have been placed under virus restrictions.
A separate report by Jiji News said that the government would consider easing restrictions on entry by foreign students and foreign families of Japanese residents.
Thousands of people overseas who had been planning to study in Japan have been left in limbo with the country’s borders effectively closed to them for much of the pandemic. A petition for relaxation of the ban was presented to the Foreign Ministry last week.
Japan will seek to speed up booster vaccinations, Kishida also told reporters on Tuesday. He said in a news conference last week that the country will work to bring forward third doses for health workers and the elderly.