Japan lifts remaining COVID nonessential travel warnings

The Japanese government on Wednesday lifted its last remaining warnings against nonessential trips abroad over COVID-19 after downgrading its travel advisories for 76 countries and areas, including Australia and Taiwan.

The Foreign Ministry said it lowered the travel advisory for those destinations, also including New Zealand, Mexico and Turkey, from the second-lowest Level 2 on its four-point scale to Level 1, which advises Japanese nationals traveling to those regions to “stay fully alert.”

The ministry said the decision came “as the infection situation globally has generally been improving” and that other Group of Seven industrialized nations have already scrapped their coronavirus travel advisories by country and area.

The 76 countries and regions comprise six from the Asia-Pacific region, 11 from Latin America, 20 from Europe, and 39 from the Middle East and Africa, according to the ministry.

By August, Japan had designated 125 countries and areas as Level 1.

Those who plan to travel overseas are still encouraged to get fully vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 infection, the ministry added.

Wednesday’s measure came after the government scrapped last week its 50,000-person cap on daily arrivals, as the nation aims to revive its struggling inbound tourism sector by relaxing border controls that had been criticized as too strict.

Japan has also ended the requirement that tourists travel on package tours, and that visitors obtain a visa if they are citizens of one of 68 countries and regions with which Japan had a waiver agreement before the pandemic.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliament committee session that he expects the latest decisions to “further activate international exchanges such as business trips.”

As for any future response, Kishida said, “We will make an appropriate decision by taking into account border controls by other major countries and infection situations both in Japan and overseas, while maintaining balanced measures that prevent infections from spreading further and that preserve socioeconomic activities.”

Japan has scrapped as well its classification of countries and regions by COVID risk. It now allows people to skip virus testing and isolation upon entry as long as they provide proof of either having undergone three vaccinations or returning a negative test result within 72 hours of departure.

Following the global coronavirus outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, Japan issued a Level 2 travel advisory for the rest of the world in March 2020, and later raised it to Level 3, which warns people to avoid all travel, for most nations including the United States, China and South Korea.

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