Japan to let individual tourists enter visa-free from Oct 11; Taiwan plans to scrap quarantine

TOKYO - Japan will abolish a slew of Covid-19 border controls from Oct 11, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday, while Taiwan announced plans to end its mandatory quarantine for arrivals from around Oct 13.

Individual visitors to Japan will be allowed to enter, and it will reinstate visa waivers, Mr Kishida said at a press conference in New York. The cap on daily arrivals in the country will also be lifted.

Japan's move to scrap most restrictions on foreign tourists comes as the country's deadliest wave of the pandemic recedes.

It also coincides with the yen slumping to its lowest levels against the dollar in almost a quarter of a century, making the country an inexpensive, attractive destination for overseas visitors.

Prior to the pandemic, Japan allowed visitors from 68 countries and regions, including the United States and Singapore, to stay for as long as 90 days without a visa.

Visitor numbers reached a record of almost 32 million in 2019, before slumping to about 246,000 last year.

Also on Thursday, the Taiwanese government said it would ease Covid-19 border restrictions from next week, with the aim of ending its mandatory quarantine for arrivals from around Oct 13.

From next Thursday, visa-free entry into Taiwan will be resumed for citizens of all countries that previously had that status, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters. That includes Singapore.

The government will also increase weekly arrival limits for international travellers by 10,000 to 60,000, with no more polymerase chain reaction tests for arrivals, he added.

If "everything is under control", Taiwan aims to end mandatory quarantine for all arrivals from around Oct 13, with arrivals rising to 150,000 a week, Mr Lo said.

Taiwan has kept some of its entry and quarantine rules in place, although in June it cut the number of days required in isolation for arrivals from seven to three.

Taiwan has reported six million local Covid-19 infections since the start of the year. With more than 99 per cent of those cases showing no or only mild symptoms, the government has relaxed restrictions in its "new Taiwan model".

"This is the last mile in our fight against the pandemic," Mr Lo said, adding that the government is making all preparations needed to reopen Taiwan's doors to international tourists.

Those who test positive, however, still need to quarantine at home or in designated hotels, the government said.

Throughout the pandemic, Taiwan's residents have not been prohibited from leaving or re-entering the island, but have had to quarantine for up to two weeks.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AFP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2022, with the headline Japan to let individual tourists enter visa-free from Oct 11; Taiwan plans to scrap quarantine. Subscribe