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31 July


Japan plans to set up virus testing center for travelers

Talks start with Thailand, Vietnam, Australia to resume business trips

Travelers Photo: Asahi Shimbun

/NOVOSTIVL/ Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday the government was considering setting up a new coronavirus testing facility dedicated to overseas travelers, as he stressed the need to reopen borders to business and trade.

"The present state of 'isolation' has an enormous impact at a time of globalization, especially on a country like Japan that depends on international trade," said Abe at a news conference held at the end of the Diet session. "We have decided to open borders first to business travelers from countries that have contained the virus."

The idea of establishing a new polymerase chain reaction testing center for international travelers came up as "testing capacity needs to be expanded," Abe said.

Under the new regime, a traveler will first need to provide proof of a negative test before departure and take another test upon arrival. Japan is now in talks with Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand to open up to business travelers.

When asked if borders would also be opened to arrivals from China, South Korea and the U.S., Abe said he would continue to look for opportunities for talks with these countries, depending on infections within and outside Japan.

“Exceptional” entry quotas will be available for business people or engineers on short-term trips to Japan who meet specific requirements.

For example, their health conditions must be observed for two weeks before entry. They also must submit certificates showing negative results for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and they must provide itineraries on where they will stay and work and who they will meet in Japan.

At the port of entry, they are required to undergo a PCR test to confirm they are not infected with the novel coronavirus.

For two weeks after their arrival, they can only travel between the places where they are staying and their workplaces. They are not allowed to use public transportation.

In addition, they must install a “virus contact” app and record their locations on their mobile phones.

According to government officials, if malicious cases emerge, such as the entrants visiting places not on listed in their plans, they could be deported or have their visas canceled.

Long-term stay foreign residents and technical interns will be instructed to stay at home for two weeks after their arrival.

But if they need to move around right after they enter the country, they must follow the same requirements as those imposed on the short-term business travelers.

The relaxed restrictions will likely apply first to travelers from Vietnam this summer, followed by Thailand. Australia and New Zealand will probably reopen their borders with Japan after the summer.

The Japanese government and the four countries are also discussing possible similar anti-virus precautions for Japanese business people when they leave their home country.

In addition, the government plans to widen the capacity of PCR tests to use saliva samples and establish “PCR test centers” in Tokyo and near major airports.