As the different variants of COVID-19 continue to spread throughout the globe, more and more countries are retracting their fairly recent decision to permit some level of travel in and out of their borders. A great example of such a nation is Japan.
After careful deliberations with the Liberal Democratic Party’s board of directors, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on January 14 the country’s decision to restrict the entry of all non-resident foreign nationals. With 41 variant cases and 322,296 active cases as of January 18, it only makes sense for Japan to once again close down its borders and halt travel into the country altogether.
In a news conference that was held a day before the announcement, PM Suga further explained that in order to protect their citizens’ lives and livelihoods, and remove as many pandemic-related potential risks as possible, it is imperative for the government to take such measures. The Japan Times’ article on the issue noted that there have been “cases of a cluster attributed to a variant from an individual who returned from the UK,” on top of another new variant detected from several individuals who returned from Brazil. In addition to this, since the active transmission of the virus is still very much rampant in high-density cities like Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama, the government was left with no choice but to immediately declare a state of emergency over the cities.
The business travel deals, which are expected to remain suspended until February, will affect China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. Aside from the business travel deals, the mutual “business track” agreements Japan had with China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Singapore have also been concluded. During its implementation, this framework exempted business travelers from the participating countries from having to undergo a 14-day quarantine so long as they obtained a negative result from a test before departing and submitted a detailed activity plan.
Tourism has always been a big part of the Japanese economy. As an ExpatBets feature on Japan emphasized, the country’s enchanting rural area and bustling big cities have made it one of the most visited countries in all of Asia. Unfortunately, at the rate the new variants are spreading, it could take quite a long while before tourists will once again be welcomed into the country and be given a chance to explore its many wonders.
This unfortunate reality, which applies to most Asian countries known for their paradise-like tourist destinations, could spell tremendous losses this year. For instance, in the case of China, pandemic induced travel bans may cause the country’s tourism industry to lose more than one trillion yuan. Still, despite this, such measures continue to be necessary — especially for countries that do not want to go through another infection wave with the new variants.
By Elena Ivanov