Travel restrictions

Japan introduces new travel restrictions in response to Omicron variant

As countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic and reopen their borders, a newly discovered variant could be a major setback in recovery efforts.

This is exactly what is happening in Japan, which recently had to reintroduce entry requirements and strict measures to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant. These new rules have brought down the country’s “no-go list”, increased previous quarantine requirements and reduced the number of visitors allowed into the country.

Those planning to visit the country soon should carefully pay attention to Japanese eVisa requirements for Indians as well as the newly promulgated entry rules.

Which countries are affected?

As the Omicron variant continues to grow, so do travel restrictions in Japan.

After reports of Omicron’s discovery spread like wildfire in the news, many governments took action by banning countries where the variant was already present.

Japan became one of the toughest countries in the fight against the Omicron strain when it closed borders to non-Japanese visitors for a month. This means that any traveler who is not a Japanese citizen or holder of a resident card cannot enter the country, including business travelers and international students.

Ironically, the next day, the first case of Omicron in Japan was discovered after a Namibian diplomat tested positive for the variant in a routine PCR test, while a day later a man from Peru was also affected.

Japan’s health ministry said it would first tighten border controls for nationals of seven African countries before it. added three more nations The next day. At present, the current list of African countries includes South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

However, the list does not end there. Japanese citizens and residents who have stayed in India, Greece, Romania, Canada, Australia, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hong Kong and four US states (Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York ) will also have to undergo quarantine.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japanese travelers returning from designated countries will need to be isolated at a government-designated facility for three to ten days.

“This is an emergency preventive measure to avoid the worst-case scenario,” Kishida noted. during a press conference.

He continued, “Research is needed to determine how contagious the Omicron variant is worldwide and whether vaccines are still effective in preventing transmission. […] it is crucial that we respond to the situation quickly and flexibly.

Is the Omicron variant of concern?

After being discovered by a team of scientists in South Africa, the World Health Organization noted that the overall risk of the Omicron variant was rated as “very high” based on early evidence. However, what does this mean?

Singapore’s health ministry, which has already studied preliminary data on the new variant, has suggested that Omicron may be more transmissible than its Alpha, Beta and Delta counterparts. There is also a higher risk of re-infection in those who were already ill with the virus.

However, that doesn’t mean there is cause for concern. The same health ministry also said that the current Omicron cases were mostly mild symptoms and that no Omicron-related deaths have been reported so far.

A South African doctor who initially discovered the Omicron variant noted that patients with the new strain had very mild symptoms that typically lasted two to three days. The most common symptoms included stiffness, a sore throat and headache.

People infected with the Omicron variant have not reported a loss of taste or smell, or a sudden drop in oxygen levels, unlike the often aggressive Delta strain.

The doctor continued, “Most of them have very, very mild symptoms and none of them have so far [been admitted for] operation. We were able to treat these patients conservatively at home. “

Perhaps most interesting of all, the new strain affects those under the age of 50. However, more research is needed to verify these claims, especially since there are so few infections with the Omicron strain.

When will Japan reopen?

Japan, which has the world’s third-largest economy, on November 8 “smoothly reopened” for business travelers, interns, students and valid visa holders. Those who had proof of vaccination would see their mandatory quarantine reduced from 10 days to 3 days.

This pilot program of sorts was the first step towards the full reopening of the country, which many experts believed would be in the spring of next year or, at the latest, at the end of 2022.

However, the new Omicron strain has put the brakes on plans to reopen Japan.

Many countries are still in limbo, especially those still looking to deal with the new variants and / or have taken a hard-line approach to stopping the spread of the virus.

This includes Japan, which, for now, looks set to push its reopening date into the future as it grapples with the virus.