Tourists to Japan must wear masks or risk expulsion

The guidelines are part of an effort to restart inbound tourism after Japan closed its borders in early 2020. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Tourists visiting Japan may be sent home if they fail to abide by rules requiring them to wear masks, sanitise their hands thoroughly and buy private health insurance, according to guidelines set by the government ahead of the cautious, gradual reopening of Japan's border.

Travel companies will be required to explain the rules and book tours only for customers who have agreed to comply. This will include a warning that the tourists could be asked to leave Japan if they disobey the rules.

The guidelines, announced by the government's tourism agency on Tuesday (June 7), are part of an effort to restart inbound tourism after the border closed in early 2020.

Japan is set to allow package-tour visitors from June 10. Although a limit on arrivals from overseas will be doubled to 20,000 people per day, that is just a trickle compared with pre-pandemic visitor levels.

While some businesses and lawmakers are calling for the country to end the daily cap, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration has also been keen to project a strict Covid-19 stance ahead of Upper House elections in July.

Under the proposed guidelines, tested last month with a limited number of tour groups, visitors will be asked to sit at designated seats in restaurants. Travel agents should plan tours that avoid crowds, keep records of movements and accompany those testing positive for Covid-19 and close contacts to facilities for isolation.

Japan will allow entry from countries and regions where infection levels are low. They will be divided into three categories - red, yellow and blue - depending on their assessed virus risk, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Travellers arriving from the 98 countries or regions on the blue list will be able to bypass quarantine as long as they pass a pre-departure Covid-19 test, according to the Foreign Ministry. Those on the yellow list will also require proof of vaccination to skip quarantine.

Japan has fared relatively well during the pandemic, with the lowest mortality rate per 100,000 among the Group of Seven countries, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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