Japan to stop all business travel in new step to curb COVID-19

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday evening that the government would temporarily suspend an agreement allowing business travelers from 11 Asian countries and regions to enter Japan, thereby barring the entry of non-resident foreign travelers.

At a press conference, Suga explained that the government had changed its position to temporarily halt all business travel as new COVID-19 infections spread across the country, saying further action needed to be taken at the borders to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from entering the country.

“To protect people’s lives and livelihoods, and to eliminate potential risks (related to the pandemic), I have decided to temporarily suspend” the entry of foreign business travelers, Suga said.

In addition to the “deeply troubling” situation of the domestic coronavirus, there have been cases of a cluster attributed to a variant of an individual who returned from the UK and another new variant of several individuals who returned from the UK. Brazil, Suga said, explaining the reason behind. decision.

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Entry restrictions will take effect from Thursday to February 7, when the state of emergency declared for 11 prefectures will expire.

Immigration authorities already halted new entries of non-resident foreign nationals in December following the discovery of a deadly new strain of the coronavirus in the UK. However, authorities have retained the travel mechanism for business travelers to minimize disruption to economic activities, Suga’s top priority.

Japanese and foreign nationals with valid legal status are allowed to re-enter the country under the latest entry restrictions.

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The prime minister previously said last week that business entry would be immediately suspended as soon as a variant is detected in a participating country.

The latest political announcement is essentially a concession from Suga, who has reportedly been reluctant to stop business travel due to the economic repercussions. Even some of his fellow Conservative Liberal Democrat lawmakers have urged him to implement restrictions on business travel in order to tighten border control measures.

The countries and regions concerned are: Vietnam, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Japan has also concluded mutual business track agreements with China, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore to facilitate trade. In this context, business travelers from these four countries as well as from Japan are exempt from quarantine at an airport but are required to obtain a negative result of a viral test before leaving. Travelers are exempt from a 14-day self-quarantine period in exchange for submitting a business plan.

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Between Jan. 4 and Sunday, as many as 11,546 people, mostly from Vietnam and China, entered Japan using reciprocal business travel programs, according to Justice Department data.

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