Japan asks airlines not to accept inbound flight reservations over Omicron

02-Dec-2021 Intellasia | Kyodo | 5:02 AM Print This Post

The Japanese government said Wednesday it had asked airlines to stop accepting reservations for inbound international flights, while announcing it will deny entry to all foreigners from 10 African countries feared to have outbreaks of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

The transport ministry’s request to airlines means all Japanese citizens and foreign residents will effectively be locked out of the country, which confirmed the same day its second case of the potentially highly contagious strain.

Japan will deny re-entry to all foreigners, including residents with long-term visas, who have recently been to Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The measure will come into effect Thursday and remain in place “for the time being,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference. Japan has already banned new entries of foreigners from around the world.

Exemptions can be made for “special circumstances” involving foreign spouses and children of Japanese citizens, diplomats and humanitarian cases.

But Matsuno said Japan is narrowing eligibility for such exemptions as part of efforts to keep out the Omicron variant and has stopped accepting government-funded international students or participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

The World Health Organization has designated the strain a “variant of concern,” warning it is likely to spread globally and poses a “very high” risk.

On Tuesday, however, the WHO urged against implementing blanket travel bans, saying they will not only be ineffective in preventing the global spread of the variant but also “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”

In addition to the ban on new entries of foreigners, Japan has imposed tougher quarantine measures for Japanese citizens and foreign residents who have recently been to certain countries or regions, requiring them to spend up to 10 days of their two-week isolation periods in government-designated facilities.

Starting Thursday, people returning from Nigeria, Portugal, Spain and Sweden will need to stay three days in government-designated facilities due to heightened concerns over the Omicron variant, the Foreign Ministry said.



Category: Japan

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