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Japan to extend strict border rules until February amid Omicron

Travelling to Japan
The Kishida administration plans to maintain its strict border restrictions that would bar almost all new entries by foreign nationals until February. Source: Philip Fong/AFP

Travelling to Japan is unlikely to be possible for international travellers until the end of February. Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said today that Japan plans to maintain its strict border restrictions, barring almost all new entries by foreign nationals until the end of February to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, reported The Japan Times.

Japan has banned new entries by foreign nationals worldwide since Nov. 30, 2021 in response to confirmed cases of the highly contagious variant in the country. In December, The Diplomat reported that cases of Omicron have spread beyond major cities, and have been found in Okinawa, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

Latest research by French scientists suggests that the Omicron variant is 105% more transmissible than Delta, but previous studies suggest it is less likely to make people seriously ill compared to previous variants.

travelling to japan

Travelling to Japan will have to take a backseat for now. Source: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

Travelling to Japan: Government hits the pause button — again

With Omicron cases soaring worldwide, Japan has also been stepping up efforts to tackle the spike in domestic cases, which includes extending its strict border restrictions that would affect efforts for travelling to Japan. This includes denying the entry of spouses and children of Japanese nationals, unless they are in “special exceptional circumstances,” said The Japan Times.

Kishida previously expressed an intention to announce his decision on border controls this week in accordance with how the pandemic developed over the New Year’s holidays.

As travelling to Japan is still impossible for many international students, many have turned to social media to voice their frustrations using the #JapanTravelBan and #EducationIsNotTourism hashtags.

Twitter user Akansha said, “The Japanese students (sic) are allowed to study abroad, but we international students even after paying an enormous amount of fees are taking online class since two years! Please explain the discrimination?”

Many stranded students have been actively petitioning the government to let them in. One online petition is calling for the Kishida administration to accept international students and researchers into the country and for the immediate withdrawal of the “suspension of visa validity,” among other appeals.

Japan’s ongoing entry ban is expected to impact overseas universities’ participation in exchange programmes in the country. An exchange programme official at the Ministry of Education was quoted saying: “We can’t say just let in exchange students under these circumstances.”

Reports also suggest that the country’s border closure will affect Japanese companies in the long run, including their options to attract and hire global talent. Japan’s travel ban has meant that universities abroad — including the University of California, Johns Hopkins University, McGill University and the Australian National University — have stopped sending their students to the country.