Japan’s borders will be open to foreign tourists by April if the government’s plan to open the country ahead of the postponed 2020 Olympics – now scheduled for summer 2021 – comes to fruition. Residents from 159 countries are currently banned from entering the country unless exceptional circumstances are found.
Under the proposed initiative, tourists would need to test negative to COVID-19 prior to departure, and also commit to logging regular updates into a health management app, which would be downloaded as part of the visa application process.
Provided visitors tested negative on arrival, they would be free to travel without undergoing the 14-day quarantine period which is currently in place for all international arrivals. Travellers would also need to be covered by private health insurance for the duration of their visit.
In a bid to ease the burden on the public health system, the government would also launch a “fever center” to provide testing and care for any infected foreign visitors.
A government source stressed that there were still many details to address, including a potential cap on the number tourist visas issued, as well as the extent to which visitors would be free to travel and partake in activities.
“We have to monitor future global infection situations closely,” the government source said.
The initiative would continue beyond the Olympics in an effort to fast-track the recovery of inbound tourism.
The news has been met with concern from thousands of Yahoo! Japan readers. One comment, with more than 24,000 likes, urged the government to allow entry only from countries where the virus has been controlled, pointing to Singapore as a country that has picked travel partners with caution. Another commenter expressed frustration, saying that the Olympics would be held at the expense of the elderly and the vulnerable, and that it would serve only to benefit politicians and large corporations.
For foreign skiers, the news will be welcomed, as it now opens the door to the possibility of seeing some of the 2020/21 season, with resorts like Niseko Grand Hirafu and Hakuba’s Happo One tentatively scheduled to open until May 5.