Japan faces question of when and how to reopen borders

Japan is facing the difficult question of when and how to ease its coronavirus-induced entry restrictions for foreign visitors, in order to kick-start an economy dependent on trade and tourism.

Reopening its borders as soon as possible is a key challenge for Japan after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were rescheduled to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We can’t keep our nation closed forever,” a government source said.

“It’s hard to predict with certainty” when Japan will be able to ease entry restrictions, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Monday.

The government will “make the decision in a comprehensive way, based on the state of infections in each country, and other information,” Suga said.

“Infections are increasing again where city lockdowns have been lifted,” a senior Foreign Ministry official pointed out.

Some neighboring countries, including China and South Korea, both of which are believed to have passed infection peaks, as well as Vietnam, where contagion has been limited, are calling on Japan to ease entry restrictions, according to government sources.

“It’s necessary to contain the epidemic within Japan before we reopen borders,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a news conference Friday.

“We’ll consider the matter by comprehensively examining a variety of information, as some countries are facing second waves of the pandemic,” Motegi added.

Motegi indicated that, in deciding the countries for which Japan will relax entry restrictions, the government will take into account their contributions to the economy and their border control measures for Japan.

Japan may be able to learn lessons from China and South Korea about reopening borders while blocking infected people from overseas, observers said.

The two Asian neighbors have started to allow entry by people with certificates of negative results in coronavirus tests if they test negative in fresh tests.

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