Japan waives pre-departure Covid-19 tests for vaccinated visitors but daily caps remain

Japan's border is currently only open for those with Japanese nationality, as well as long-term and pre-issued tourism visas. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Japan will waive pre-departure Covid-19 tests for vaccinated travellers to the country, but daily caps on entrants will remain in place, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday (Aug 24).

The requirement for tests will be lifted from Sept 7, Mr Kishida said. No decision has been made yet on a reported plan to raise a daily cap on inbound travellers from 20,000 to 50,000, he added.

"We will continue relaxing these measures gradually," said Mr Kishida, who addressed reporters online as he is recuperating from Covid-19 at his official residence.

Japan has maintained some of the strictest pandemic border measures among major economies, requiring travellers to present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Mr Kishida said in May that he wanted to bring Japan's border measures more in line with those of other Group of Seven (G-7) nations.

Japan in June opened up to tourists for the first time in two years, but requirements that they apply for visas and stick to guided, package tours have kept actual numbers of inbound visitors small.

Also, while the testing requirement is being relaxed, there’s still the issue of entry visas.

Japan's border is currently only open for those with Japanese nationality, as well as long-term and pre-issued tourism visas. Tokyo stopped their visa waivers for applicable passports during the pandemic.

Mr Koji Shibata, chief executive officer of ANA Holdings., welcomed the easing as “good news” that will let people travel abroad with peace of mind.

But he said he wanted to see a relaxing of the visa requirements by putting them on the same levels as other G-7 countries.

Airlines, hotels and retailers are all eager to regain the business they lost.

The small trickle of foreigners allowed into Japan last year spent 120 billion yen (S$1.2 billion).

In 2019, they spent 4.8 trillion yen, or forty times more, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

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