Japan has barred entry of all non-resident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant.
“To save people’s lives, and to take precautionary measures, I announced on Saturday that Japan will bar entry of foreign nationals from all over the world,” said Yoshihide Suga on Monday.
The Foreign Ministry said the entry ban would start Monday and last through Jan. 31.
Suga reiterated his request for the public to spend “quiet” year-end and New Year holidays and stick to mask-wearing and hand-washing amid concerns of a new variant of the coronavirus that has spread in Britain and detected at airports and in Tokyo last week.
“It is said that the virus has mutated and became more contagious in UK, but the basic measures we take are the same. Please wash your hands, wear masks and make sure to take all possible ant-virus measures,” Suga said.
Japan is also suspending the exemption of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners that began in November. The entrants now must carry proof of a negative test 72 hours prior to departure and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival.
Suga’s government has been unable to slow the ongoing upsurge of the infections despite his requests for basic preventive measures.
His government has been criticized for delaying measures for weeks due to apparent reluctance to hurt the pandemic-hit economy, with recent media surveys showing about 30-point decline in his support ratings since he took office in September.
As of Sunday, Japan has reported 220,236 cases of the coronavirus, with 3,252 deaths.