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Japan to lift Covid restrictions on tourist arrivals

2022-09-23 HKT 01:36
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  • A sightseeing boat is pictured on the Dotonbori river in Chuo Ward, Osaka Prefecture, in June. File photo: AFP
    A sightseeing boat is pictured on the Dotonbori river in Chuo Ward, Osaka Prefecture, in June. File photo: AFP
Japan on Thursday announced that it will lift tough Covid restrictions on foreign tourists, reopening the borders after two and a half years.

"Finally, Japan will reopen the border," Digital Minister Taro Kono wrote on Twitter. "Visa waiver is back, no daily limit and free individual visits."

He made the announcement ahead of a speech at the New York Stock Exchange by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is attending the UN General Assembly and is expected to offer details on the easing of entrance rules.

Tourists who go to Japan will enjoy a weak yen, which has plummeted so low against the dollar that the finance ministry earlier on Thursday intervened in the currency market for the first time since 1998.

The return of the visa-waiver programme suspended in March 2020 will restore the ease of access that saw a record 31.9 million foreign visitors to the country in 2019.

Since June, Japan has allowed tourists to visit in groups accompanied by guides, a requirement that was further relaxed to include self-guided package tours.

Japan has recorded around 42,600 virus deaths in total – a vastly lower rate than many other countries – and 90 percent of residents aged 65 and over have had three vaccine shots.

There is no law requiring people to wear masks, but they are still near-ubiquitous in public places like trains and in shops, with many Japanese willing to sport masks when ill even before the pandemic. (AFP)