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Japan to ease border curbs for business travel

REUTERS

JAPAN is considering easing its COVID-era entry restrictions for visitors on short business trips, foreign students and technical trainee workers, the Nikkei reported without citing how it obtained the information.

The changes would shorten quarantine restrictions from 10 days to three days for those in Japan for short business trips or Japanese nationals returning from business trips, and could be announced as early as this week to take effect this month, the Nikkei said late on Monday. The policy changes would also allow new entrants such as foreign students and foreign workers in Japan’s technical trainee program.

Japanese officials didn’t give concrete comments on Tuesday on whether the country is set to ease restrictions. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan was looking at easing its border controls in stages while evaluating the infection and vaccination situation globally. The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, said meanwhile it was under active consideration.

Shares of Japanese airlines rose Tuesday following the report. ANA Holdings, Inc. was up as much as 3.4% and Japan Airlines Co. as much as 3.1%, while the Topix index fell as much as 0.6%.

The island nation enacted one of the strictest border policies among developed nations during the coronavirus pandemic, effectively banning most foreigners from entering the country unless they already held a visa. Most of the Covid border restrictions have affected students and technical workers, the Nikkei said. Business lobbies and sectors affected by labor shortages had begun to call for the government to ease restrictions.

Tourists, who had been a key driver of growth in Japan before the pandemic, are still not allowed in the country. The Nikkei report said those travelers are not included in the easing of restrictions at this time.

Japan’s new coronavirus cases have seen a steep drop since its latest wave peaked in August. In the past week, the country was down to about 200 to 300 new cases per day, and on Monday the capital of Tokyo reported just nine new cases. About 72% of the country’s population are fully vaccinated. — Bloomberg

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